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.


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!


Introducing my wingman

When I started writing the articles for this blog, I wanted a second eye on what I was putting out there, so I didn't say anything too outrageous. One of the players in my regular games, Frank, is also a new DM with a similar amount of experience to myself, so to me he was the obvious choice. We get on really well, bouncing ideas off each other and stealing things from each other for our own campaigns! I've therefore gotten him to write a little intro too, since he'll be chipping in here and there.

Bonjour, everyone! I'm Frank, and like Mazz here I've been a DnD 5E DM since about May 2017, though I had started playing in January. I was also not the best when I first started, but after some trial and error I've managed to find my groove with the group that I DM regularly (and also smaller groups I run one shots for.) Comparing myself to Mazz, I run a much looser style of game, a lot less focused on RAW, and also with a lot less prep (sometimes going into sessions totally blind.) My main role for this blog is to give a second opinion on certain topics from my point of view. You'll often see my own notes written in with Mazz's (whether or not those notes will be called "Frankly Speaking" is up to Mazz and her obsession with puns, haha.)

Going over my own DM heroes, Matt Mercer is definitely up there. I have shamelessly stolen a lot of ideas from him to use in my own game (his resurrection rules, "how do you want to do this", etc.) I'm also a really big fan of The Adventure Zone's Griffin McElroy and his skills as a DnD storyteller. Respect must also be paid to Chris Perkins and the awesome work he's done on Acq. Inq. and DCA.

That's all from me for now, I hope to see you all soon on this awesome project! Au revoir!

Find Frank on twitter here

Please note - Frank greatly overestimates the amount of prep I do. We talked about it after he wrote this, and we agreed that one of the things good DMs do is look like they know what they are doing. If you have the confidence, a wholly improvised session can seem like the most perfectly planned and executed game to your players. And little things you make up on the spur of the moment can turn into key points in your campaign. But that's something we can talk about in another article.

Thanks for reading, and the first DM article, "Herding Cats", will be posted tomorrow!


About me

Hi, I’m Mazz! You've probably seen me around twitter, showing off my yarn creations and making terrible puns. I also often talk about my D&D games. I’ve been a 5e D&D DM since May 2017, and like most people trying out the DM chair, I was not... polished... in my first session. I would say I've definitely improved a lot since then, mostly just by watching streams of D&D games. My DM hero is undoubtedly Chris Perkins, and I have learned a great deal just from watching how he runs a game. It’s not just all about him though, as there are so many games out there now to watch with fantastic DMs like Lauren Urban, Satine Phoenix, Ruty Rutenberg, Christopher Lindsay and Matt Mercer.

I know there are many people putting DM tips out there, but I didn’t feel like there was a tutorial or walkthrough type guide on how to run a D&D game, so I decided to write one. Obviously this is just my take on how I do things, and I don’t have years of experience. I’m still learning a lot as I go, but I hope my thoughts go some way to demystifying my processes and encouraging other people to take up the DMs chair!

Stay tuned, as my first article on being a DM will be going up very soon!