The Yarning Portal mazzmatazz's blog

Happy New Year!

I'm notoriously late to the party on trends, fads and popular culture. Prime example: I've only recently discovered Twin Peaks. I binge watched the first two seasons, devoured the movie, and have been working my way through Twin Peaks: The Return. I have only one episode left to watch now. And watching The Return made me realise something. I LOVE it when a story moves on. I am probably one of only about four people that actually liked WoW's Cataclysm expansion, because I enjoyed how everyone's story had developed. It made me feel like there actually was a life happening when I wasn't around to see it. The state of Southshore, the name change on Lucy Moran's deskplate, little things that belie so much more happening.

And so, as the year turns, our stories change too. (Nice segue, eh?) At the start of 2017, there was no way for me to imagine the year ending how it has. I'd just gotten out of a job, where I was bullied just for turning up, because the supervising nurse decided she didn't like me. It was a sad and tough Christmas, for other, personal reasons, and the first few months of 2017 weren't much better. I hadn't ever touched a d20, let alone considered becoming a dungeonmaster. I got talking though, to one of my relatives who had experience with 3.5, and the stories she told me about her paladin and the fun she had made me curious to try this game, and so in May, I ordered the Starter Set with the intention of roping in my family to play. I bought them each a set of dice, and we sat down for our usual board games one day and I pulled it out and handed round the character sheets. Me being me, I hadn't really read the books properly, I thought I'd just work it out as I went along. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but we muddled through a goblin ambush, and they made their way to a mysterious cave, and before I knew it, we were all hooked. We're still playing that game, perhaps one session a month, and having a lot of fun with it.

I've come a long way in a short time since then. I never thought of myself as a writer, or someone that could improvise, or even someone who is creative in an original way. I felt like all I would amount to was someone who just copied what other people could do, whilst working a mundane job, but I now know I'm so much more. I have DM'd 63 sessions (I count them) and I've played a couple of sessions. In August I started my Monster Manual project, which got me noticed by the community and led to me being interviewed for Dragon+. I made my first Twitch streams, including a live game, with some amazing people, just a few of the friends I've been lucky to find through this incredible community, some of whom are absolute giants and legends in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. I've written my own homebrew campaign, which 11 people currently play in, and I also wrote my first adventure and published it, and some people have paid for it. Me, writing?! Most importantly though, I have not only been able to manage my anxiety and other mental health problems in a way I never dreamed of before, but also I have brought D&D to people other than myself, through running sessions and teaching players at my local tabletop gaming club.

So I look forward to 2018, feeling proud of what I have achieved in the past 8 months, and making big plans for the future. I want to make my local live games Adventurer's League official. I want to stream more online live games with my new friends. I want to keep running that homebrew campaign and give my players an amazing gaming experience, and write more oneshot adventures and publish them. I want to keep being creative with yarn, and get some items in my Etsy shop so I can make a little coin. I want to continue to be a strong, positive rolemodel and a voice speaking up for diversity and representation in the community - It's already an amazing community indeed, but there is always room to do better. And I want to save up enough money to get myself out to the US, attend a PAX convention, and meet some of these amazing people that have changed my life in so many positive ways. Mostly though, regardless of what I do, I want people to think of me as kind, and I shall continue to strive every day to achieve that goal by living it. As Mahatma Gandhi said, 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world.'

I hope that 2018 brings you many good things to enjoy, and that you have the strength to cope with anything difficult life throws at you.


DM Tutorials - What do your players need from you?

I rarely play as a PC. Like, honestly. I’ve played in 2 games, but DMed over 60 at time of writing. It’s not because I haven’t been asked, it’s just my personal preference. I love running the story, bouncing between NPCs, and watching what my players come up with to react to the situation. Because of that, I often forget what they need to know when I set up a game. I therefore made a list of questions that players tend to ask me because I’ve forgotten to make this information clear.

Things to consider when asking players to create characters

  • What level are the characters going to be starting at?
  • How are stats going to be chosen? Standard array; Point Buy, Dice rolls?
  • If using dice rolls, how do you want that to be evidenced?
  • Are there any class or race restrictions? Are homebrew races or classes allowed? How about multiclassing?
  • Where is the campaign going to be set? Forgotten Realms? A homebrew world? If in a homebrew world, give a brief summary of the world, to aid in backstory creation. Are there any backstory elements you’re going to allow or disallow for your PCs?
  • For classes such as Paladin or Cleric, is there a specific pantheon of Gods that the player should be drawing from? What patrons are Warlocks allowed?
  • How serious do you want the PCs to be? Will it be proper RP characters only, or would you allow Randy the Savage, Barbarian Wrestler Extraordinaire?
  • What level of min-maxing are you going to allow your players to undertake, if at all? Would you prefer them to make flawed characters to add depth to the story, or are you happy for them to make killing machines?
  • Which variant rules are you going to allow? Are you going to let your players take feats?

If you are recruiting for a game, it might be worth trying to incorporate as many answers to these questions as possible in your recruitment post, to make it simpler for people to submit applications. If you already have players, perhaps a handout with these answers will help players to get on with character creation, without too much back and forth waiting for responses to questions on either side.

If you don’t feel comfortable and confident with things such as a homebrew class, or letting people roll for stats, tell them. If you are running the game, you get to make this decision, because you are going to be controlling the world they are playing in. Yes, players may argue, complain, or try to persuade you, but if they really want to play, then they will accept your decisions. In my games, I flat out refused to let any homebrew classes to start with, and I am not letting my players multiclass until they hit level 6, because I felt this was too complicated for me starting out, and I was still learning how to balance the game. To be honest, I still am. I throw combat at them that is meant to be deadly on the CR, and they breeze through it, and content that is supposed to be simple sometimes knocks party members out. You can never gauge how the dice will fall or the tactics your players will take - but how to work those situations is a topic for another day.

I hope this article was useful in helping you consider a few aspects of your world that you need to establish as well as for helping your players to create a character for your world.

Once again, thank you to Frank for reading over the article before posting, and also for contributing several points to the list.

Happy Gaming!


Feeling that Christmas Spear-it!

Whew, what a few days! I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. I know it can be a difficult time for some of you, so my love to those who are finding it tough. Soon 2018 will be upon us, and we can only hope that the New Year will bring good things.

The livestream went AMAZINGLY, once we got past the technical issues. OBS and Skype had been working fine in my test call earlier in the week, and I was confident I had set everything up as needed. However, on the night, the window failed to port in correctly on my group call and I couldn't make it work. Thankfully Rudy of Don't Split The Podcast swooped in, made a Christmas miracle happen and saved us all! If you haven't had a chance to watch it yet, you can find it on Don't Split The Podcast's Twitch channel for the next couple weeks, as well as on my Twitch as a permanent upload, or on my YouTube channel. (Please excuse the screen being adjusted at the start, Rudy was working his magic for us.)

Thank you to everyone who came along and watched! I was very touched by comments made in the chat. I couldn't watch it whilst streaming, DMing requires 100% of my focus, but I went back afterwards and scanned through the logs on the VOD. Before the game I was nervous about the NPC voices I do, so to hear that people liked those was cool. And someone said I make DMing look easy ... that means A HUGE AMOUNT! I want to make D&D as accessible as possible to everyone, which is the point of this blog. I believe that if I can successfully DM, then anyone should be able to, and if I can demystify the process enough to make even one or two people put up that screen and start leading players through a game, then I am proud to have helped.

I had an absolute blast playing with Noel, TK, Lysa, and Moth, and we hope to get together again soon for another game. I am very proud of the adventure I created, and it prompted me to write it out 'properly' and publish it on DMsGuild! Considering I got it out on Christmas Eve, and it's Boxing Day here today, a bunch of people have already downloaded it, and some have even contributed which is incredible! It's Pay What You Want, and whilst of course, being jobless right now, money is great, I'd also like to hear some feedback. It's my first attempt at formally writing an adventure, so I know I can definitely improve.

Anyway, I really should go. Although I got to celebrate Christmas yesterday for the first time in a few years, today is traditionally when my family does the Christmas thing together, and I need to go bake some cupcakes for later. Over the next few days I'm going to be setting up and starting my text based games, and also I'm looking to run a short stream on how to prepare a pre-written module for playing. I'll update my Twitter with that information once I decide when.

I hope the rest of 2017 is kind to you, and that 2018 brings you many good things!


Always trying new things...

It's scary to do new things, but unless we keep doing new things, life becomes stagnant and boring, and we never grow. So this weekend, I am doing two things I've never done before.

First, I've uploaded my very first piece of DMsGuild content! It's a festive themed character sheet, and it can be found here. I know it's very close to Christmas so I probably won't see as many downloads as I'd hope, but even one or two people enjoying it would be cool!

Second, I am DMing my first livestreamed D&D game on Twitch! I'll be running some really cool people through a homebrew Christmas adventure I've written especially for the holiday season. Catch us at at 9.30pm EST tomorrow (23rd December). I'm very nervous about running this, but with the people I'm getting to play with, it won't be anything but incredible fun!

As ever, thank you for reading!


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