All I can say is wow. Almost a full year ago, some users of this site posted the request to the Dungeons&Dragons official thread for someone to GM for them. They had seen some episodes of Heroes&Halfwits at that point and they wanted to try. Many of them had never role played in their life. Some had a little experience with the game.
I let those requests sit there for days, hoping someone else would step up. I had a little experience as a GM at the time: I'd run a short campaign in 4e, a single session in 3.5e... I had nearly a decade experience as a player though, and I had spent years STing (GMing) for Shadowrun. But I didn't feel confident I could GM for them and have it be a satisfactory experience.
Days later, one of them repeated the request, signalling that no one had stepped up. That age old get out and do things question that I've become so adept at ignoring rang in my ears: If not you, then who? These people just wanted to try something new. Something that, for as long as I had played it, had been deeply entrenched in "nerd culture" and therefore seemingly inaccessible to mainstream gamers. Suddenly, Achievement Hunter had made it a cool thing. Made it OK for mainstream gamers to want to sit at a table, roll dice, and pretend to be someone else for an evening.
Hell, I love D&D. Of course I want MORE people to love it with me! So why wasn't I GMing for them? Because I was worried I'd mess it up? Because I was worried about my story telling ability? My world-building ability? My ability to quickly adapt as the players make unexpected decisions? HELL YES, that's exactly what worried me. I'd only had success in Shadowrun.
But these people deserved a chance to be players. Deserved a chance to love the game I'd spent nearly 10 years making amazing memories in. I sit there and tell the stories of crazy characters friends and I played and the shenanigans we got up to. They deserve to have their own stories to tell others with elation in their eyes.
I wrote my fateful message on the forum thread: "I can run D&D5e. Message me if you'd like to join and we'll set up a day that works for everyone."
I started getting messages, one of them rallied the others and they picked a day and time: Tuesdays at 7:30pm EST. They picked a communication platform:
Discord Skype. They picked a setting and a heroic theme.
The first couple sessions were rocky. We had people calling in while delivering pizza, a couple never showed up. About 4 sessions in, one just disappeared. In the second session, I added 2 more players: both close friends of mine, one was on a podcast with me and had never D&D'd before, the other was my original GM - the one who first introduced me to the wide world of role playing.
As I expected, the Veteran took the reins on the group and began to show them that interacting with the NPCs of the world was just as important as interacting with other player characters. His character learned of troubles on trade routes and at the city walls, and requested the king's leave to end the attacks. He gathered the Player Characters to his cause, having witnessed their prowess in competitions held as part of a celebration in the city.
Suddenly, five unlikely heroes were trudging through the woods in the frozen mountains of a Skyrim-like kingdom. They fought Orcs. They hunted Orcs. They captured an Orc and forced it to take them to its home. They learned that not everything is as it seems. They stopped a plot by the King's own sister to coerce the local Orcs to dismantle her brother's city. They became honored heroes.
I had gone through all the info from the short campaign I'd run in 4e. I was in Uncharted territory! No...wait. This group had handled the campaign far differently from the group years earlier... and I'd come up with new characters and hooks that fit the same plot. I'd been in uncharted territory all along, and things had been fine. Everyone was having fun.
"Okay," I said. "Let's see what happens next." I dived into the countries of origin of the players - I'd earlier drawn a map of the continent and described each nation, letting the players pick where they were from and working with them to develop a couple family members and cultural dynamics.
The player characters had just hit Lv 3, so they all had paths* (*class specializations) now. The Paladin had chosen to take an Oath of Vengeance for his path, so I needed to set up something big and important for him to avenge. I told them that amid the festivities in honor of their heroic actions, a Dragonborn had appeared in the city and requested to see the Dragonborn player character. the PC met his uncle in the city's hospital and the older man recounted how their home had been attacked and devastated by an ancient evil dragon. He then warned the younger dragonborn away from the island nation of his birth. The player swore his Oath and asked the party to help him liberate his home.
Not wanting things to be transparent, linear, and easy (and also knowing the group had no way to travel the huge distance between their current location and their destination), I came up with another story line at this moment. They went to the newly saved king and asked him, as his heroes, for transportation to the island nation of the Dragonborn. He decided to use them as an example to reinstate mercenary companies within his kingdom, assuming they swear their loyalty to him. He gave them a commission and their first mission: to aid an ally in distress on his behalf. He would give them a set of horses to get them to this allied nation's capital at which point the horses would become theirs. They would be expected to broker peace between this ally and the foreign power they're entangled with.
It's really fun to watch their interactions shape the world around them, near and far. They're not well-known in the new lands they travel now, but there are a few elements preceding them that may cause them more trouble than they expect!
I got a little deeper into it than I intended. I got caught up recounting their story. Suffice it to say I found stories in me and inspired by my players that have been more rewarding than I could have hoped to play out with them each week. As we close in on 1 year, thank you all for being part of this adventure with me!
It all (kinda) started here: