Let’s Talk: Dungeons & Dragons – Generations of DMs – By Ben Clemmer.
We’ve had two episodes and one Spotlight that have focused extensively on Role Playing Games (RPGs), so as a way of looking at where we are now, I thought I would provide some of the background for the games we’ve discussed.
Dungeons & Dragons went from being something that I had heard about and only had impressions of thanks to pop culture, to being something I played during college. Lucas Gerke, our guest for the latest Storytelling Breakdown episode, was about to start a new campaign with his friends Caleb, Autumn, and Eddie. They did an amazing job making me feel at home and executing an enthralling campaign despite some of the clunkier aspects of 4th Edition D&D.
Graduating from college and planning a wedding, I realized that I didn’t have the time anymore to play in a regular D&D campaign, so I bowed out and let another player step into my spot at Lucas’s table. I was busy, but did find myself missing D&D, or at least aspects of it. I missed the group. I missed the storytelling. I missed the random, unthinkable scenarios that could change with a roll of the dice.
Then I watched this episode of Tabletop.
Granted, during my D&D hiatus, I was still an active tabletop gamer. Many of the games I’ve collected over the years, I learned how to play while watching Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series. The video on Fate Core featured a fantastic breakdown of how the game works and I began to do some of my own research. That research really took almost a year before I DM’d my first game of Fate Core. I bought a set of fudge dice or Fate dice at Gen Con in 2017, but I wouldn’t play the game until July of 2018. I had created character and game concepts. I had read through the online resources as much as possible. I had even asked Lucas to get me the hardback book on running the Fate Core system.
The book was helpful for a couple reasons. I did find myself studying the game more with a physical copy in hand, but I also realized my online research had been pretty comprehensive and I felt confident I could run a good game. After the 2016 Suicide Squad film was largely viewed as a failure, I decided to begin planning for a Fate Core game set in the Suicide Squad universe. This meant I would create all of the characters before the sessions began and I just needed players willing to step into the roles.
Stephen Stachofsky was one of the first people I asked. Spending time with him and Georgia prior to when they got married, I realized how fondly Stephen remembered his past D&D campaigns. He accepted my invitation as I hoped to offer a clear explanation of how the game worked before we played our first mission. Stephen and Georgia stepped into the roles of Deadshot and the Enchantress.
Our friends Casey, Caleb, Lucas, Carolynn, and Jackie jumped in during that first run, playing everyone from Captain Boomerang and El Diablo to Harley Quinn, Katana, and Red Hood. One of the attractions to Fate was the simplicity of the math involved compared to D&D4E. Areas in combat were also measured in zones, rather than squares. Maps didn’t have to be all that complicated and I even used Lego figures for marking where our players were in different environments. It was a blast to play in the DC Universe and take on an Amazo android, other past villains from Task Force X like Bronze Tiger, Poison Ivy, and Count Vertigo. Our last session of that run featured a magical battle against Felix Faust.
Our group did not gather to play Fate again until after my wedding in early August and Stephen’s two weeks later. We regrouped in September and I realized that I wanted to include players from my last D&D group. Caleb, Autumn, and Lucas all played sessions with us before we switched our focus from Fate Core to Star Wars. More details on that can be heard in this episode.
As I’ve reflected a lot on RPG’s these last few months of blogs and episodes, I’ve realized that the games can grow so much thanks to the generational aspect of playing RPGs and being a DM. A DM inevitably introduces new players to a game as I once learned D&D from Lucas and another DM once taught Stephen the game. I learned the Fate system, pulled in other players, and first got to play Fate as a player in 2020 when Stephen ran a virtual game. As time goes on, I’m curious to see what other players decide to run games. I have followed in Stephen’s footsteps in learning to play D&D by investing in source books and look forward to running my first game in D&D 5e. In some ways, I’ve traveled very far from the first session I ever played with Lucas, Caleb, Autumn, and Eddie. And in other ways, it will feel like coming home.