After my last D&D game folded, in June of 2018, I felt like I didn’t want anything to do with D&D for a while. Only after another year or so did I resume reading and commenting in the blogosphere, and only now am I thinking about next steps for serious work on my game.
The month after the game folded, I wrote a brief post-mortem analysis for the five or six sessions of the 2018 game. Here is a rewritten and distilled version: the key points as I see them today, with the benefit of longer hindsight.
I believed too strongly in fully-automatic tools for replacing my need to do certain kinds of work, rather than narrow, focused tools which could augment my intelligence and capacity for reason. Another 18 months of work experience, reading, writing, and hobby experimentation has taught me that pie-in-the-sky large-scale programming projects take too long to become useful started, suffer from scope creep, and cause me to drift around in the mental world of “wouldn’t it be nice.”
I didn’t understand the skills for managing players, individually and as a group. A non-exhaustive list of what I mean by “managing” includes encouraging or tempering emotions; noticing when out-of-game matters (weather, difficult day at work, etc.) are interfering with someone’s focus; and responding promptly and accurately to player questions. In other words, I’m talking about all that goes into running a good game session, as a building block of the eternal campaign. What frustrated me is that making progress here seems partially dependent on breaking a vicious cycle. How do I practice table management without a table? And how do I keep a table if I can’t manage? Oh, I have run good game sessions, all right. I know that I have what it takes, SOME of the time – which makes it so frustrating that I can’t (yet) do that reliably, and thus can’t (yet) provide a strong enough baseline quality for game sessions that momentum carries players past the point, as a group, where a bad session becomes a reason to give up instead of a reason to try again. As Alexis has put it,
D&D is such a hard game to know.
I didn’t put enough work into acquiring abilities that would help with point 2. For instance, I didn’t memorize my own rules and world well enough answer instantly when asked for clarification.
Above, I mentioned “next steps for serious work.” At present, those include:
- rereading Alexis’s 2018–2019 DM Masterclass series of posts, which starts here, and doing its exercises
- uploading my rules, files, and other items to this site
- adding comment functionality to this site, so the players have somewhere they can park notes and questions for my review, enabling discussion during and between games
- in general, more writing, more posts, more comments – more brain time spent, full stop