Confessions of Game Master: I Didn’t Like our World, So I Created My Own

Art by Svetoslav Petrov

Thirty years ago, I was in junior high school in central Texas. My parents pretty much forbade me playing physical sports like football. This was Texas, everyone played football, except me. I spent most of my lunch periods at our school library checking out and reading books on every subject that interested me; science-fiction, fantasy, nature, and the military. That changed when Bill, a friend from my neighborhood asked me if I’d like to play Dungeons & Dragons.

I had heard about D&D through media and some of my more progressive friends. This was during the Satanic Panic era when people frowned on D&D due to misinformation in the media, and a general lack of understanding of what the game was about. This was just before video games were about to take off. Most of our time was spent outside riding bikes and skateboards, building forts in the woods, running through the creeks, and getting into trouble. Basically, normal kids.

Bill, he prefers “Will”, took me to this kid who was one grade above us. He sat outside on the concrete stairs under a somewhat new metal awning with steel struts painted blue. On the step before him lay a sheet of graph paper with a hand drawn map, some beat-up red plastic polyhedral dice, and a red box with some Conan-looking dude complete with sword and shield, facing down a dragon. It was like a Frank Frazetta painting and I was awestruck.

The kid had made his own homebrew campaign using the Elf Quest comics and his setting. My first character was an elf, that’s all I remember about him. We played for the rest of the school year and had a blast doing so. I read the entirety of the Elf Quest series (I highly recommend you do) to get me even more into my character. It’s hard to explain my love for RPGs but I’ll do my best.

For some reason I was almost always the GM (game master), it was a position in the group I really enjoyed. I could create, plan, and tell a story that was ever evolving. Me, Bill, and KC played Rifts almost every night during the summer. Occasionally Ted, or Andy would jump in, and then eventually Ryan. We’d listen to Metallica, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Guns & Roses amongst others. It wasn’t unheard of us to play well into the early morning hours before sunrise.

But as things happen, if we’re lucky, we grow older. Inevitably, we take on careers, get married, have kids (furry kids too), and get laden down with the responsibility of being an adult. People can change and usually do, personal politics get in the way, and all that other stuff that means so little when you stop and think about it, but no one ever does.

I ran a campaign for three years but ended in disaster partially thanks to my actions. The game became personal for some reason that I can’t explain. Perhaps I felt I spent so much time and energy that I was somehow owed an epic ending. But I forgot about what makes RPGs so much fun; watching a group become invested in the story and work as a group to see it to the end.

If you play RPGs, you owe it to yourself to run a game. It seems daunting at first, and in a way, it is, but it’s a super confidence booster when you do. You’ll be able to walk in a room full of strangers and be at ease. And why wouldn’t you? You’ve help guide storytelling amongst friends into an epic mythology all your own. Until next time!

May You Always Have Advantage,