Starting Out: Game Master Series


The art from the Dungeon Master’s screen for Dungeons and Dragons. Image cred.


It’s theater/radio/improv/imagination/story-telling in an oral tradition that goes back millennia. It’s D&D y’all.

I’ve decided to become a DM (Dungeon Master). This is not an altogether well-thought-out decision, as being a good DM or GM (Game Master) means an awful lot of time alone spent creating and planning and memorizing rules for a few hours of fun that WILL be derailed and will NOT go as planned and MAY make friends hate each other afterward…or not.

I’m still going to do it. It’s a bit like saying you’ve decided to be a poisonous frog catcher in the Amazon or a tornado-chaser in Oklahoma. Everyone’s like, “yeah, that’s super cool, you should totally do that!” and everyone is also thinking “that’s cool yeah, but also insane, and I’m so glad I have a normal hell like customer service or nursing. I’m definitely the smart one here.”

I’m not bitter. I’m insane. Probably.

My brother put down world-building as one of his skills. He’s also a DM. A far better one than I will ever be, also being a voice actor. I can put world-building down as one of my skills as well because apparently, that’s the kind of thing to run through families, or over them, and I’m a writer, so there’s….that. Which may or may not make me a good DM. It may mean I wax eloquent in my descriptions and my NPCs will say “er…um…great!” a lot because I’m not so good at the improv or actual real life conversations.

I don’t know yet. I’m just starting out. I haven’t even finished reading the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I think I need to sleep with it. Okay, not with it, obviously, but like, under my pillow so I can memorize rules by osmosis. Dream about it. Some people put pictures of loved ones under their pillows to dream of them. Ha, amateurs. I’ll be over here dreaming of monsters and people staring at me waiting for me to deliver an awesome story. Wayyyy less embarrassing/awful. Play me a tiny violin. *tears*

I’m not a complete noob at this point though, if I have to be honest (and everyone’s honest on the internet). I did run my aforementioned amazing DM brother through the opening of Curse of Strahd, which took like eight hours. It gave me a pounding headache and a sore throat for a few days, but it was so awesome. He was in America and I was in Korea, so we had to Skype, and I called him when I was ready wearing a black paper raven mask and playing creepy vampire music. Oh yeah, it was epic. I even lit a candle labeled “Dark Woods” or something, but of course, the smell was only metaphoric for him.

I decided to blog about this because I think it would be cool to see how it was starting out after I’m a very good DM who is semi-famous somehow. I will definitely have my own website with a picture of me holding the tips of my fingers together and one eyebrow up as I look over my DM screen.

Step 1: Learn to raise one eyebrow.

I’m going to be so great at this.


Excerpts from my journal; Late June 2017

June 26

It’s been nearly a week. I’m home on vacation now, trying not to think about the fact that my week is nearly taken up by meetings with friends and appointments and how much that stresses me out. One day I will plan a vacation with actually nothing. But I suppose it’s good to be doing all this. I did need the chiropractor, and I’m sure I’ll have fun. I just…enjoy not having a schedule sometimes.

The flight was good. I’m getting so used to it now the dread is abating for the most part. Even the prospect of a twenty-one hour flight to NZ isn’t daunting. It’ll be long and boring but it will end. I’m glad I’m to the point where flying isn’t a big deal.

There’s a lot to do, and I keep not doing things. I keep putting off contacting people because I don’t actually want to do anything. I just want to sit here and sleep and walk around and look out the window and think about nothing.

It’s odd though, because as soon as I landed I felt like I’d never left, like the six months since I was here last didn’t even go by.

The best part so far has been the D&D playing and planning I did with my brother. I got off the plane, he took me to eat, and then we went to his friend’s place to play. My brother is the Dungeon Master for his friends, and he brought me in as a surprise villain – a white dragon. It was beautiful. I was an excellent liar and an excellent villain. They were so indignant. It made me want to move home just so I could join their games.

I’m here this coming Saturday night too, so I get to play again. That’s about the only thing I actually want to go out and do. I am such a nerd.

July 29

While I’ve been home I went on a road trip with my best friend. It was amazing in a lot of ways, kind of painful in others. For instance, staying in a five-star hotel convinced me that staying in five-star hotels is not something I enjoy. Particularly the valet part. I don’t understand how valets work, so I kept opening my own door as they were reaching for it. Awkward. And I kept getting to the hotel door before them too. Awkward. I also got my own luggage out. Not even in some display of female power; I just didn’t realize they were going to do it. Other hotels don’t. Ha ha ha ouch.

And the room itself was just a room. Granted, a very clean room, and one with impressively massive pillows, but, in the end, just a room. We didn’t use the facilities, so I’m guessing a lot of the fancy was down there.

We walked around the downtown area. That I enjoyed. I like pretending I’m urban and cool and walk around downtowns all the time. Which I do, in Korea, so I’m not sure why I felt so falsely pretentious. It might have had to do with the fact that I had to hold my dress down the entire time. Curse the wind.

So we walked and had lavender coffee and went to a scratch kitchen (where they make everything from scratch. Shame, as I was hoping for one of those scratching sticks) and had amazing burgers and then to a bar to meet her friend and I had two gin drinks with strange names that were pretty good, experienced DIY s’mores, which seems dangerous with open flames and alcohol so abundant but okay, and went back to the hotel room early for such urban walkers and instead watched TV and did at-home pedicure treatments. Ah yeah. My kind of night.

July 1

It’s been several days again. My time in America has almost ended, but not my vacation. Tomorrow night I will leave for New Zealand. I keep putting off mentally thinking about it since I’m pretty nervous, I guess. I wouldn’t have thought so. I think I’m just worried it won’t be as good as I want it to be. I want it to be the best thing in my life, but that’s a pretty high expectation. The memories will be good. The experience might have a lot of discomfort and stress. That’s okay.

Tonight I’m going back to DnD. Tomorrow I leave for Middle Earth.

Excerpts from my journal; Early 2017


What matters? The story. It’s always in the back of my mind, or should be, the ever running, ever-evolving storyline. I hold my imagination most precious, most dear to me. It is my greatest asset and more dear to me than anything. My imagination keeps me warm, keeps me entertained, keeps me happy, keeps me thinking and feeling and buzzed on life. The only thing that matters is the story.


This past Saturday I ran my brother through the D&D Death House, the intro to “Curse of Strahd.” I was amazing, even starting out the encounter wearing a raven mask and with an amazing greeting. It was wonderful. And I had great music and didn’t flub or forget much. It made my throat ache and my head pound, but it was so worth it.

So no matter what happens, I am amazing.


I was thinking today about the fact that I used to read a lot of military history books. I was quite the ridiculous nerd in high school, and at one point I was absolutely enamored with tales of wars, prisoners, daring escapes, battles, politics, and intrigue. I remember reading “Ghost Soldiers” and really loving it. Which is odd, as that book entails graphic descriptions of some of the worst things a human can do to another. It didn’t really bother me. I think I was genuinely less sensitive to it than I am now, and I don’t really understand that.

I think if I read that now, I would cry. I would feel so much more deeply the horror and cruelty and wonder so much more at the things that made those soldiers do those things, that it would affect me far more. Why, when I am more mature, wiser, and have more worldly knowledge, would I be LESS capable of hearing about the horrors of life? I don’t get it. It’s interesting to me how much more things affect me. As an HSP, of course things will, but why does it get more pronounced as I get older? Is that normal? 

How D&D Saved My Social Life

Dungeons and Dragons saved my social life. Oh dear. That sentence doesn’t seem real. But it’s true.

And chimichangas keep me going.

Here’s why. Being a nerdy introvert means that even though I live abroad in a land of fun and shopping and happenin’ night life (that apostrophe at the ends means it’s super cool), I don’t go out and have fun all that much. Well, I mean, I have fun, but my fun usually involves books or Netflix or staring sadly out the window. No, wait, that’s a 90s music video. Never mind.

As I stated so eloquently in this post, just because you move to another country does not mean you magically become more extroverted. I still don’t want to go out. Even if there are cherry blossoms flying through the air and making mysterious sha-la-la music when I walk.

I mean, I had friends. After the first semester here, I had my friends at school, and one or two outside of that. But most nights after work I was still inside, playing games or reading or writing. It was nice, but I wanted more. I wanted to get out and meet people. Being an INFJ, I love people. I just don’t like very many of them at one time or for too long.

Enter D&D. I have to thank my brother for this. He got into it and started DMing himself, and when he told me about it I decided it sounded like the best thing ever and I had to find a group.

(Quick digress – I grew up in a conservative community, so I remember thinking D&D was either a) for devil-worshippers or, b) for closeted nerds with body odor.)

Thank goodness I cast off those stereotypes, because let me tell you, D&D is one of the best things around, nerd or not. And luckily for the world, it’s becoming more mainstream, which means groups are more prevalent, merch is abounding, and it’s easier to find resources than ever.

If you don’t have a clue what it is, watch Vin Diesel play it here. Or Joe Manganiello here. Or the experts here. Or you probably already know.

I bloomed in that group. I found my thing. My THING. I always say I’m an introverted exhibitionist, because I love making people laugh, and I like to put on a show. I think that comes from my teaching experience. So acting out as a character, though I’m no actor, is a lot of fun. And I have a brilliant memory for rules, not to brag (totally bragging). I’ve also Dungeon Mastered myself (that’s a real word, right?), satisfying my yearning need to control others….what?

I was fortunate enough to be part of a big foreigner group on Facebook near where I live. If you live abroad where you don’t speak the language and might not have a gaming store around, I would check those kinds of groups. I just posted a message on the boards asking if anyone had a group and had several responses in a couple days. Or check out Meetup. Alternatively, you can start your own group and put out feelers. It’s always fun to bring more people into the dragon-infested fold.




Brangwen (My character, who is a totally cool and not at all neurotic Paladin of the Raven Queen. Homebrew FTW. Thanks to Hero Forge for allowing me to make my own mini. *heavy breathing*)