Family D&D

Wil Wheaton is blogging about something I’ve always wanted to do, which is to run a D&D campaign for his son. ( Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 , and Part 5 ).

I even went so far as a couple of years ago in buying the 3rd edition Players Handbook, DM Guide and Monster Manual, but I never did run a campaign.

Why not?

I suck as a DM.

I’m just not creative or flexible enough that when a player throws me for a curve to react. I’ve also struggled in being descriptive enough in bringing a world to life. Wil Wheaton touches on these and more in Part 5, Lessons Learned:

The more descriptive, the better. But didn’t I just say keep it simple? Yes, but these things aren’t mutually exclusive. While I can keep the story simple, I can still work hard to make the encounters more than moving figures around and rolling dice. For example, Nolan used a power to rip his maul through a pair of minions who were adjacent to him. He hit them both, but instead of just saying that, I told him, “your maul crashes through its head, streaming blood and gore behind it as the power of your swing carries into the other one. Their bodies fall to the ground with a wet thud.”

When the rogue rolled particularly well with a ranged attack, I told him, “your dagger whistles through the air toward your target, and catches it in the throat as it lunges toward you. Its eyes widen and glaze over as it falls down, dead.”

I also added smells, sounds, and anything else I could do to make the tower they were in really feel old and decaying. It helps that I’ve read more fantasy genre fiction than I’d like to admit.

Don’t be afraid to improvise. When it looked like the final encounter, which should have delivered the greatest challenge, was going to be a cakewalk, I just looked at some stat blocks and added a few more creatures to the encounter so it would feel more climactic. I knew I had the cleric back in the cell, and if things got really, really bad, he could figure out a way to race in and save the day (as a general rule, though, I don’t recommend doing things like this too frequently, or your players will figure it out and act accordingly.)

My son is 13 now. It’s time to get off my butt and see if I can’t figure out how to be a decent DM and get a session going.

Paul Cutler
Father. Husband. Vinyl Music Lover. Football fan. Python student. He / him.