The Joys of Dungeon Mastering…

2008 February 20
by Dante

I have spent much time in the last few weeks reflecting on the things that I like to do and why I like to do them, all the way from career goals to recreational pursuits. That led me to consider my roleplaying hobby, specifically being the Dungeon Master, and why it is that I love it so much.

You are in control.

Human beings, by their very nature, like to be in control of the environment around them. Being the DM allows a level of complete control over the “surroundings” and activities that take place in those surroundings. Granted, there will always be someone that doesn’t agree with your perspective on a given situation, but that’s why 20d6 lightning bolts from the sky were created.

It is a creative outlet.

There are many jokes made about the alpha nerds, the ones that are so into their job, hobby, or passion that they demand some level of attention when they talk authoritatively about a given topic. The neat thing about DMing is that you simply need a story to tell and some people to tell it to and you’re done. You can make that story be whatever you want, dictated however stringently, or modified and colored by the people you are storytelling to.

It is a creative outlet, plain and simple. Now there will be some alpha nerds that have all the techniques, toys, bells and whistles to make their story shine a little more than some, but at its root anyone can be good at it. Most of the DMs that I count as excellent had a good story, no miniatures, figures, fancy battle mats, maps or other accoutrements to aid their story. They simply told it well and knew when to flex it based on our input.

It’s Social Networking for Nerds

Often, those that frequent are hobby tend to be people that would otherwise be described as weird… nerds, dorks, dweebs, melvins… the terms go on and on. Roleplaying provides a safe zone for those that fall into some or all of those categories. We get to hang out with others of our pack, trading stories, eating junk food and having fun. Usually, we are safe from the barbs and diatribes of the rest of society, and that provides the simple ability to unabashedly be ourselves and that is a very powerful thing.

Many of us even wear those previously listed labels as badges of honor, proudly heralding our love for things that most common folk will never be able to comprehend. It’s all a matter of perspective.

You don’t have to be you for awhile.

If you are one of the poor unenlightened members of our society that still get bothered by how we are perceived by others, then roleplaying offers you an escape from your normal job as a desk clerk, computer programmer, or copy writer and turns you into someone worthy of praise and adoration. You get to step into those heroic shoes that you would normally be too shy and awkward to don on your own in the real world.

There is nothing wrong with this, I happen to believe that one of the worst types of living is living without imagination. To be cast forever in the often disappointing real work and not able to get outside yourself for awhile and dream is a terrible notion for me, and that is one of the fundamental reasons why I love this hobby.

So let’s hear yours, go nuts! I could go on in this thread for hours on my own!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. The DM permalink
    February 21, 2008

    GREAT post, Dante!

    I think your last point, that DMing can be a brief escape from reality, is an important one. I also think it applies to players as much, if not more, than it does to DMs.

    I believe that Aristotle nailed it on the head when he talked about catharsis. Experiencing something vicariously, whether it is through a dramatic situation like a movie, or whether it is through a game, provides a certain benefit to the psyche that human beings need to have. By role-playing, we exorcise many of our inner demons, and we hone our own personalities.

    Some of the more modern psychological approaches suggest that the opposite is true: playing violent video games makes you violent, playing a fantasy game like D&D separates you from reality, etc.

    This, I think, does a disservice to humanity. The paradox that playing fantasy RPGs can actually make a person more in tune with reality is something people don’t want to hear.

    Now, can these games, for the person who is mentally ill, create problems? Sure. But, so can pancakes. Are there times when a person is so immersed in fantasy that they lose touch with reality? Sure. But these are the exceptions that make the rule.

  2. Roleplay permalink
    February 21, 2008

    Wow, excellent points. “the dm” also has a great analysis, relating to Aristotle’s catharsis. He’s absolutely correct – humans need this. It refines our personality, and in many cases makes us who we are today.

  3. David E. Talvoces permalink
    February 24, 2008

    While I agree it’s social networking for geeks as well as escapism, there is one aspect that was ignored. It isn’t necessarily a place where you can be someone else for a while, but for me it’s a place where I can be myself for a while.

    I’m a hardcore geek and have been since the earliest of my days. It’s effected my literature choices, music choices, hobby choices, etc. But aside from my geekery I’m also pretty well adapted socially. I work with non-geeks in a non-geek profession doing non-geek things the majority of my time. But I love it when I get to gaming sessions and the joke of “can you get me a Mt. Dew… it’s in the fridge” results in gales of laughter.

    It’s a chance for me to let my geek flag fly.

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