RJ Cresswell has played Dungeons & Dragons for 27 years and logged over 1,000 hours of gameplay as a Dungeon Master.
Learn how he turned his hobby into a side hustle as a Professional Dungeon Master, plus learn his tips for running fun, inclusive games for players of all ages and skill levels.
Watch the interview above, or keep reading for the text transcription*:
*Text has been edited for readability. Check out the full video for all of the candid, uncensored banter!
Q: Tell me a little more about you and how you found yourself in the world of D&D.
A: Okay, so my name is RJ Cresswell. I’m 42 years old. First and foremost, I’m a dad and a husband. After that, I’m an art teacher. And then yeah, I’m a Dungeon Master or Dungeons and Dragons player. And, yes, I run some paid professional DMing gigs.
In terms of how I got started into the world of D&D, it didn’t actually start with Dungeons and Dragons. I started playing role-playing games in high school with some friends I met in my first year. We started off with games in the Palladium system, like Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We played, I don’t know what system it’s from, but it was a game called Villains and Vigilantes.
Those were sort of my segue into roleplaying games.
I started primarily with more superhero and action-adventure-type games. And, I knew that Dungeons and Dragons was part of that. I was a fan of the cartoon when I was much younger before I even really knew that it was a roleplaying game. So, for a long time, I had the words “Dungeons and Dragons” in my head. Once I figured out that it was a roleplaying game along the lines of some of the stuff I was playing already, I definitely wanted to try it.
I faced a little bit of a hurdle earlier on. I was coming up around the time of the Satanic Panic and all of that stuff. My mom bought into that and didn’t want me playing Dungeon and Dragons. She didn’t care about the other ones, but I faced a little bit of a hurdle having to finally convince [her], you know, I’ve been playing these roleplaying games for a while now. It’s really no different.
I think I actually started sneaking around playing it first. It was finally like, “Look, I’ve been playing it. It’s not a problem”.
But that was kind of my introduction to tabletop roleplaying games. It was not actually Dungeons and Dragons but a few other systems.
Q: So, did she finally approve when she realized you weren’t going to fall to evil?
A: Yeah, I mean, she knew the people I was playing with, and we would have sleepovers if not every weekend, several weekends a month, where my friends would come over, and we’d play these games. I think my parents knew that it was just this nerdy little hobby that we had, and it wasn’t doing anyone any harm.
I’m originally from Mississippi, and there was just a bit of a stigma that we had to overcome. Sure. It didn’t take too long, but yeah. I definitely had to sneak around a little bit at first.
Q: When you first started, did you start off DMing or just as a player?
A: No, I definitely didn’t start off DMing. I wouldn’t say that I probably played for an entire year without being a DM or GM. But I played several sessions before actually trying that.
Q: So, what was that first experience like when you finally stepped into the shoes of the Dungeon Master?
A: So, when I first tackled being a Dungeon Master or game master, because I wasn’t actually playing, again, Dungeons and Dragons, when I first tried my hand at running a game. It was with me, and one of my high school friends, and I think we had had one of those tabletop roleplaying sleepovers I was talking about where it was just me and my friends. We’d stay up really late playing games or whatever.
I didn’t run one of those, but I think it was the next day, and all of my other friends had gone home, and it was just a buddy left and me, and he was going to be there for a couple more hours with me. We were just like, “Hey, we didn’t get enough roleplaying. Let’s keep going.”
So, we just kind of took the system that we had been playing with, and I had this idea for a very modified and streamlined version of it. You know, I think we just used Armor Class, and then we had an attack ability and maybe how to drive a vehicle. It was just very streamlined.
I ended up running a session with him where, you know, I think I drove a lot of it, but it was almost like a co-GMing kind of thing, where we each got to play characters and switched off [for] different parts of the story. It was basically kind of like we were couriers for this organized crime thing, and it was like, deliver this McGuffin, this suitcase somewhere. I think there was a car chase, maybe a street shootout, and then the eventual payday at the end.
It was very simple, very streamlined, but you know, we’re in our 40’s now, and we still reference that session as a very fun session. It was just kind of off the cuff. Neither one of us had a lot of experience being a Dungeon Master or a Game Master. It was just real fun.
Q: So, when did you decide that you maybe could do this professionally, that people could pay for you to be their GM or DM?
A: So, I’ve played several editions of Dungeons & Dragons. For most of my time playing those and running games, I never even thought anything about being a professional Dungeon Master. But, after 5th edition came out, people were streaming Dungeons & Dragons, and I was really getting more into the role of the Dungeon Master, as opposed to a player.
I had a lot of friends encourage me, “Hey, this is something you love.” and, “Hey, did you know that people can make money doing this?” They started sending me articles about these people that were making money being a Dungeon Master. As a professional Dungeon Master or working with kids through education sites doing Dungeons and Dragons on that. [They were] making six-figures or whatever it is they were reported doing, and they were like, “You love doing this, you’re pretty good at it. You should consider doing it.”
I let them make those suggestions for a couple of years. I just never really took the initiative to do it. But I passed some direct messages back and forth with Devon Chulick from Total Party Kill over the summer. He told me about this site that he was working on for professional DMs, called startplaying.games. He just told me about it and sent me a link. I checked it out, and I was like, “Hey, this is pretty cool and sort of lowers the barrier for how I might get set up with this.” I asked if I could come on board as well, and I got in right as they were doing a soft launch for it. I put a profile up, listed a couple of sessions that I would want to play, and then that’s just kind of where it started, was with that website.
It really made it easier for me, you know, because I’m not a tech genius, but I’m fairly tech-savvy most of the time. I just, I never really put much thought into how I would get this whole professional thing up and running. That site really lowered some of those barriers for me and made it pretty easy to deal with.
Q: I want to go back to StartPlaying, but you also mentioned that folks were making money doing this with kids too, which you also do, right?
A: Yeah, well, make money doing it with kids? Yes, in the sense that occasionally I run games on startplaying.games for children or teenagers. Parents will contact me and ask if I’ll do this, and I’m definitely happy to do that.
In addition to that, I’m a middle school art teacher. In the last few years, after I really got going with Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, I thought it would be awesome if I could incorporate this somehow. You know? I’d hear my kids mention it. They had watched Stranger Things and seen it referenced on there, so I knew it was something that was on their radar.
I’d mention to my students some of my hobbies, and that was one of the hobbies that they always took an interest in. So, I got together with a couple of other teachers, and they were really big into Magic the Gathering and games like that. We came up with this idea for doing a gaming club. We wrote up a document, our principal approved it, and we just started this gaming club.
Eventually, they kind of fell by the wayside, and it just ended up being me doing a Dungeons and Dragons club, and I’ve done that for the last few years. In fact, last year and the year before, I turned it into not only this after-school club thing, but I managed to get a period during the day. Every day, students came in and played Dungeons and Dragons for an hour out of their day. Like a brain break in the middle of the school day. You know?
Last year it was probably at its strongest. I know for sure that I had more than 100 students sit in on Dungeons and Dragons sessions last year. So, it was a really awesome, strong club.
Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, all of our after-school activities have been canceled. So, I haven’t been able to do it this year. But I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ll have a student see me every week in the hall and lament the fact that we can’t play and want to know when it’s starting back up.
All I can say to them is, “Well, you know, we’re not doing it to keep people safe, but as soon as it’s safe, we’ll do the club again.”
I, no kidding, had had several students tell me that it was their favorite part of the day when they were doing it.
Q: So, with StartPlaying, let’s say, as you started getting inquiries and people who were interested in working with you, do you remember who your first group/client was?
A: I kind of remember some of the players, but I can’t remember my exact first–well, probably my first three sessions are kind of bleeding together. But, I can say this:
I started off on this startplaying.games, and I just put up this game session that I was interested in doing. Almost immediately, I had people sign up for it. I think startplaying.games did a couple of giveaways where they gave away slots to people. I got paid for them, but you know, I just slotted them in kind of for free in my sessions.
Anyway, that gave me a couple of players. Then, a couple of the people from startplaying.games joined some of my sessions. But, from those first three sessions, I still have people that I do consistent campaigns with.
So, they started with me when I first started on there, and they’ve just continued playing with me. I’ve got two groups composed of people around when I first started doing it. You know, they just enjoyed the play style, and we’ve been playing ever since.
I also have multiple other groups that aren’t from when I first started playing but just played with me, and they’re like, “Hey, can we play twice a month?” And they’ve kept up a consistent campaign. So, that’s been a consistent source of my games. People who came to a session, enjoyed it, and wanted to book a campaign for their friends.
Q: How many campaigns, about, are you running simultaneously?
A: Okay, so I have 2 streams that I do. And, we kind of alternate. I stream with one one week and stream with one the next week, and we just alternate on Tuesday and Thursday. So, I’ve got two campaigns for that. Then, I have a Monday night campaign, a Friday night campaign, and those are every single week. Then, I have a Wednesday night campaign every couple of weeks. I have a Saturday campaign that’s every couple of weeks. Then I have a campaign for really young kids that meets probably about once a month, and, same thing, I have another campaign for teenagers that meets once a month or so.
On average, I usually do 2.5 – 3 paid games a week or something like that. And then a stream on top of that. Then sometimes just gaming with my high school friends, or other people, you know? So, in a given week, I could run anywhere from 2-6 games. Not all of them paid, but just two to six games.
Q: How do you keep all that organized? I can’t even keep my notes straight from my own campaigns, let alone that many.
A: I’ve got a pretty good memory for one, so that helps out because, honestly, I don’t keep a whole lot of notes. But, also, I rely on my players, and I’m just honest with them. I’m just like, “Hey, I’ve got a whole bunch of games going on, and there have been several games since the last time we played. If y’all could give a little bit of a recap to help me [remember] exactly where we left off…”
Once they give a recap, I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s what we did. That’s where we are, and this is what was going on with their campaign.”
I remember a lot of the stuff that’s going on with their characters in their campaigns. Then, of course, it’s more centered on them, so they’re able to say, “Hey, this is exactly what we did last time.”
It’s pretty easy for me to pick up with that, and I’m the kind of Dungeon Master that I don’t do a lot of prep work for my campaigns. At least, not on a nightly basis or a weekly basis or anything like that. Usually, I will start a campaign really strong with prep work and come up with all of these NPCs and places and have kind of like a rogues gallery of all of these people.
They’re like archetypes. It makes it easy to be like, “Okay, a certain player wants to do this thing that wasn’t anticipated, but I’ve run this kind of character in another campaign. That just happens to be the NPC that they’re going to meet.” I already know a voice for them and some description for them.
The fact that most of these campaigns aren’t streamed, and they’re just private games for people, they don’t know that I’ve done this with other people, and I don’t think that would bother them at all.
It’s like having this personal library of shortcuts that I’m able to insert into campaigns.
Q: If my own experience is any indication, group chemistry or chemistry with your players is pretty important. How do you constantly adapt to new players?
A: One of the things that makes it easier for me is that many of the people who play with me that aren’t doing it every week or in a prolonged campaign are newer to Dungeons and Dragons.
They don’t know exactly what to expect, and they look at me as being the professional. So, they take cues from what’s going on with me, but when I play with new people, I never really know what will be the playstyle they like.
With 5th edition especially, we talk about the pillars. The three pillars being exploration, roleplay, and combat. Those are the things that people like to do when they play Dungeons and Dragons. So, because I never really know what group will enjoy what the most, I always try to have a little bit of each of [those] in there.
For the first few sessions, I’ll try to make a third of it roleplaying, a third of its combat, a third of it exploring places and giving descriptions and stuff like that. Sometimes my players who are returning after a session will be like, “That was really fun, but you know what, RJ? We’re the kind of group that just wants to fight monster after monster. We like roleplaying a little bit, but if you could just give us combat after combat where we find treasure, that’s what we want.”
I have a group that’s like that right now, so I’m just like “Hey, we’re gonna do sort of like artifact hunters or treasure hunters. We’ll do like a ‘treasure of the week,’ and time will have elapsed between every time that you’ve played. Every time we play, you will have acquired a new mission from somebody to go recover this relic or artifact or treasure or whatever.”
They’re like, “We love it,” you know? I’ve done maybe four sessions with that group now. Last session I checked in with them, I was like, “Well, you know we talked about having some other kind of playstyle eventually, once y’all had done a few of these sessions.”
They’re like, “Nope, we love what’s going on with this. Let’s just keep treasurer of the week.”
So, if it’s just a one-shot, I just try to make sure that they have an overall well-balanced experience of different play styles. For players who are returning, I just ask them straight-up, or they tell me straight-up. “We prefer more combat,” or “We want to play more roleplay,” or “We just like walking around dungeons and finding stuff.”
So, yeah, that’s mostly how I adapt to new players, is just to give them a well-balanced experience. Then, if they’re coming back, figure out what they like the best and focus on that. Put the spotlights on those moments.
Q: I saw in your profile that you also put a pretty big emphasis on inclusivity. How does that manifest in your games?
A: Well, I enjoy playing with all kinds of people. I know there’s this term like “gatekeepers” [that think] only a certain kind of person should be roleplaying.
I don’t really buy into that whatsoever. If you want to roleplay, and you want to roleplay with me specifically, and you’ve reached out to me and made that clear, I try to find room for you at my table.
I try not to exercise bias, but if I see people reaching out to me from underrepresented communities in tabletop roleplaying, I try to give them a space at my table. I just like to encourage everybody to roleplay.
Now, in terms of my actual game world, when I’m doing that kind of front-ending work that I was talking about earlier, where I designed villages and NPCs, I try to make sure that I have a diverse cast. When I’m describing, it’s not always “Oh, you come across this beautiful blonde-haired blue-eyed warrior goddess.” I try to come up with the diverse cast of NPCs that people come across.
Q: Since a lot of the people coming in could be new and this is their first time playing D&D, do you have any requirements before you get started, like creating a character or reading the rules, or is it okay to just start from zero?
A: Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of the people who play with me, if they’re not returning players, they’re brand new to Dungeons and Dragons and want the experience of what it’s like to play with someone who knows how to run a game, and I don’t really have too many requirements for them. They could come in and know absolutely nothing about Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m happy to teach them as we’re playing.
In fact, I’ve had several groups where, when they told me they were new groups, we explored this option that I do with people, which is teaching them how to play the game as we play the game.
I’ve had more than one group start with me where we’ll have a little bit of an explanation of what roleplaying is, what to expect. These are the dice that we’re using for tonight’s game, what they’re for.
As we’re playing, I’ll give them almost some “metacognition.” We’ll play a scene, and then we’ll pause for a moment, and I’ll say to them, “This is what just happened, and this is why I did this.” So, if you’re wanting to run your own roleplaying game, this is maybe something that you might consider.
So, I do that with some groups,but that’s mostly ones where everybody or almost everybody is brand new to Dungeons and Dragons.
I have a lot of other groups where it’ll be mixed. It’ll be some people coming in, and they’re like, “Hey, we’ve been playing since 3.5, we’ve never really played 5th edition, but we know a lot about Dungeons and Dragons.” Then we’ve got two friends who are completely brand new; they’ve never played before, but they want to play with us. I’ll have some mixed groups like that.
Sometimes there will be a person who’s familiar with 5th edition. I always try to go slow enough for the people who are brand new but fast enough to keep it interesting for everybody else.
In terms of things that I require from them, no, you can just show up to my games, never having played Dungeons and Dragons. We’ll figure it out, and I’ll find a way to make it fun for everybody, or at least do my best.
In terms of online games, there are a couple of requirements as far as tech goes. If we’re talking about my paid sessions, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not I can see your face. It’s nice, you know, but as long as you’ve got some kind of decent audio where I can hear you, then that’s all we really need.
Stable internet is obviously something that you need to have, because if you’re trying to play with us and keep having to wait five minutes because your internet’s going out…It’s a barrier for some people, but it can decrease the game’s overall experience and slow things down. I just recommend that if you want to do a paid session with me, stable internet is something you need to have.
You need to have a decent source of audio so that we can hear you. And the ability to get on Zoom.
If you can do those things, then we can make the session work. I always say having video is nice, but it’s not required.
In terms of my streams, it’s pretty much the same. They need to also have a stable internet connection, decent audio. Then, of course, we want some kind of video on and the ability to get on Zoom—minimum background distractions.
Q: Out of curiosity, are your streams monetized as well, or is that just for funsies?
A: I was doing these two campaigns in my homebrew setting and ended up being an affiliate. It was monetized, but I did not make very much money at all whatsoever.
I could have continued using the Twitch channel that I was doing that on and still been an affiliate, but I’m currently just using my personal channel for this, and I’m not at the affiliate level.
All it requires me doing is just running a couple more streams a week, but I haven’t really cared to try to monetize them because I’ve already monetized my paid Dungeon Mastering.
So, I don’t really care so much about the streams, just because I know that I was not making very much money from Twitch.
Q: You mentioned your library of creations and NPCs, so it sounds like you do a lot of homebrew campaigns. Do you also run pre-made modules, and if so, how do you choose?
A: I run both homebrew campaigns, and I run sessions that Wizards of the Coast has put out. I probably prefer running homebrew, just because I think it gives me a little more freedom.
The players don’t know quite what to expect from the game world. They’ve most certainly never played the campaign that we’re gonna play before, nor have will they have encountered the NPCs and and all of those things. So, I just like it because it gives me the freedom of them not knowing what to expect or not coming in with like a preconceived notion of what this world is supposed to be.
It lets them experience something new in a familiar setting. They might know Dungeons and Dragons, but they don’t know this particular campaign. So, I prefer homebrew.
I also think it allows me to get the players off of the rails. Not, “This is what your characters should try to accomplish this session.” It’s really more of an open, sandboxy kind of thing.
I’ll throw in some hooks. I’ll have some encounters that they might cross if they do certain things. But, if they don’t want to do any of that and they make their own adventure, well, that’s great. We’ll figure that out as well.
That being said, I’m currently running multiple Dragon Heist campaigns. I’ve got a couple of Icewind Dale campaigns going on as well.
Usually, my versions of those campaigns end up looking a good bit different from what’s actually in the module. As much as I like the stuff in there, some of the things feel boring or pointless. I’m going to eliminate all of those things. Like we were talking about, cut out the boring stuff, get to the fun stuff.
I’m not a big fan of plot tickets: “You’ve got to do this to get here to get here, to get here, to bring it all the way back around to here.” I don’t really like stuff like that. I like a more streamlined approach to D&D, so when I run official campaigns, they end up looking a good bit different from what’s actually published in the adventure.
In terms of how I decide, a lot of times, it’s not just me deciding. If I’m starting a campaign with a group of people, I’ll throw out some options. I’ll think of things that I would like to do that would be fun for me. I’ll pitch it to my players, and we’ll go with what sounds most fun to them.
Sometimes I’ll just say “Hey, are you interested in a particular campaign that you would like to do?” If it’s something that I think would be fun for me, then we do it.
Some of my players have chosen to be in my homebrew setting, and some of them have said, “We want to play Curse of Strahd” or “We want to do Dragon Heist.”
Then sometimes, I have players contact me. They’ll ask about playing a certain campaign with them, and I’ll be like, “I would love to run a game for you, but I have no interest in running that adventure. Another Dungeon Master would suit you better for that.”
I’m not like a big fan of mega-dungeons and stuff like that where people just spend most of their time playing in dungeon room after dungeon room. I don’t really have an interest in that.
I try not to turn down players, but I have turned down or recommended other Dungeon Masters for campaigns like that.
When we’re talking about my professional jobs, I’m first and foremost focused on my players having fun. While it does become a job for me in terms of time investment, I’m also there to have fun. So, yeah, it needs to be fun for them. It also needs to have fun for me. I’m not interested in turning Dungeons and Dragons, this hobby that I love, into something that I dread doing because I got myself into an adventure that I’m not interested in.
Q: You’ve run a lot of games now by this point. Do you remember any particularly difficult moments in any of your paid campaigns? Then, maybe the most triumphant as well?
A: I think I can honestly say that pretty much all of my paid campaigns have been pretty pleasurable experiences. Nothing has gone completely awry with my paid campaigns so far.
I have many returning players. In fact, I don’t get to play with as many new players as I thought I was going to get to because I have so many people that return for weekly sessions buy monthly sessions. I see a lot of the same people.
I think I had one person leave a session in the middle of it because it wasn’t what they expected. One of the campaigns I run is called “Drunken Heist.” They perhaps had a little bit too much before we even started playing. It was a little more roleplay than they wanted, and they were just like, “Hey, this is not what I was thinking it was.” But that wasn’t even a bad experience, because they weren’t rude or anything like that. They were just like, “Thanks for having me, but this wasn’t what I expected.” I felt bad, but what can you do about it?
The coolest moment from my paid sessions…I’ve had several of them with different groups. One of my longer-running groups recently did a session in Icewind Dale. They took their characters through Dragon Heist, and then we went on to Rime of the Frost Maiden. They ended up defeating the Frost Maiden, so that was a big, victorious triumph moment for them. Actually defeating this god. A weakened god, but a god nonetheless. That session was pretty cool and intense, but the session after that was probably even a little more cinematic and fun.
Their characters had not gone up to the roof and saw that she had this rock which is kind of like an eagle the size of an ancient dragon. So they ended up having combat with this eagle where they were plummeting through the sky. Almost like a Pointbreak, doing this aerial combat and stuff like for like. None of them had ever done anything like that, and I had never run aerial combat like that before. It was just off the cuff figuring out how we would do it to make it fun and cinematic. It ended up being fun, and they all really enjoyed it.
That’s one of the reasons why I like 5th edition is because I didn’t expect people to jump out the window and off this tower and have this thing going on. But, the system is simple enough and streamlined enough that we were able to figure it out.
Q: Getting down to the business part of pro DMing, what does the “business model” of a pro DM look like?
A: I guess I kind of have an unofficial business model in terms of the way that I do this, and I don’t know how it works for many people, startplaying.games, I can do it in different ways.
I can charge per player. I can charge per session or per hour. The way I’ve been doing it for a while is I charge $50 an hour. People usually spread that out amongst themselves as players, PayPal their friends, who will pay me the lump sum. I tell people we can run for 3 hours, 3.5 hours, or 4 hours and it’s $50 an hour.
With my earliest sessions, I had it set up per player, and it ends up being a little bit less than the $50 per hour.
I think it was like $25 per player, six players, or something like that. I let those people be grandfathered in because we’ve been playing together for a while now. Even though they are my clients, we’ve become friends who’re playing together. I just happen to get paid for the sessions that we play in.
So, even though my most recent model is a flat $50 an hour, I’ve got a couple of groups that are grandfathered into my old price.
Beyond that, I don’t really have too much of a business model. My business model is to treat it not like a business and just something that I’m having fun at. It’s a hobby that I just happen to be getting paid for.
I don’t go out of my way to advertise or anything. I think startplaying.games does some advertising. I’ve got a little bit of a following on Twitter, and occasionally I’ll write about it there. Mostly when I’m doing stuff like giving away a free game.
I think some of the people who follow me on Twitter know that I’m Professional Dungeon Master. I’ve had some people come from Twitter and seek me out. Still, I think that most of the people who have sought me out have just been people on startplaying.games. They read my reviews, or somebody else played with me and said, “Hey, this was a fun person to play with. You might want to go play with them.” But, I don’t really do any advertising or anything like that.
I honestly have more sessions than I would like, probably. A lot of my time is taken up by Dungeons and Dragons.
Fortunately, I enjoy it, but as I mentioned earlier, I might run anywhere from 2-6 sessions a week. On top of that, I’m a dad and a husband. On top of that, I’m a teacher. I have also been doing a grant program this year, so I have very little time for myself. Very little chill time.
I end up having to tell people, “I’m sorry. I can’t play with you this week.” I’ve had it, knock on wood, pretty easy so far, in that I haven’t had to do any advertising and people have found me and kept returning for sessions.
Once I have people there, I just try to make sure all of my players feel welcome, and every player’s character feels important. That’s my biggest thing, is once I have people there I want them to have fun. I want them to think that their characters matter, and I try to find a way to make that happen.
Q: If someone was just starting out they were interested in being a Professional DM, would you recommend joining startplaying.games?
A: Yeah, I mean, there are several ways that you can do this. I’ve looked around at other professional Dungeon Masters that aren’t on startplaying.games, and I’ve seen some people who handle their games through Patreon. They’ll have different tiers for a once-a-month session or something like that.
I’ve also seen people who just take payments in through Paypal, and you can book them. But, as I’ve mentioned, startplaying.games has been very user-friendly for me and essentially no hassle.
I just put up my sessions, and I’ve been lucky enough to have people who continue to want to play. I have been fortunate enough to have new groups coming in pretty frequently on top of that. I’ve been happy with the service that they provide, the platform that they provide. If I’ve ever had any issues, they’ve resolved them for me pretty quickly.
I would most certainly think if a person doesn’t really have the initiative, kind of like I was, to figure out things by themselves, then it’s an excellent resource to get started.
Q: So, that was already some good advice for new pro DM. Suppose someone is interested in delving into the world of professional DMing or GMing. What would be your biggest piece of advice to them?
A: I guess my biggest piece of advice to them would kind of hit on something that I said earlier.
Remember that [your players] are there for entertainment. They’re there to have fun. They’re not there to be told “no.”
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have any restrictions on them, but I take this advice from different videos that I’ve seen about being a Dungeon Master. Kind of co-op improv-ing the rules of “yes, and…” Yes, that can happen, and here’s what happens on top of that, and here’s where some restrictions come in.
Sometimes players want to do goofy stuff that’s just not feasible. Being able to say “no,” but in a way that it’s “No, you can’t do that, but if you want to make something like that happen, here’s a way we might be able to approach it.”
I know I’ve played with different Dungeon Masters throughout my life. A lot of them have an adversarial relationship with their players and their players’ characters.
I try to do the opposite of that. I try to figure out a way for my players to have fun. I think that’s the biggest thing that will determine whether or not Dungeon Master is successful. “Do your players have fun when they’re playing with you?”
If they have fun when they’re playing with you, they’re going to keep coming back.
I try not to be a pushover DM, but I try to give them drama. I try to give them conflict. But, I also try to give them moments in which they can win.
That doesn’t mean that they always win. I mean, I think part of the fun is coming back [an] upset to be victorious later. Some of the fun is sometimes not everybody’s character makes it through. There’s a loss. They deal with that. They pick up a new adventurer along the way.
I just try to make sure everybody has fun. I try to make sure everybody’s character feels important. If you can do that as a Dungeon Master, then I think you’re going to have some successful sessions.
That’s it! Another big thank you to RJ for taking the time to join me for this interview. Make sure to follow and support him on his social media at:
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