My First Game
My first session of Dungeons and Dragons started in my cousin’s living room. Riddled with eraser marks, and more than slightly crinkled, I pulled out my character sheet, slightly nervous, kinda excited, waiting to start the game. I played role playing games before, but it was always on a computer.
This was different.
This was real life.
When my cousin sat down and started the game, the nerves fell away, and I was transported. There was acting, magic, creativity, freedom, expression, laughs, and food. I loved the game.
I never stopped playing.
That moment sent me on the path to where I am today. This game helped me develop confidence, creativity, flexibility, and group management. As I played over the years, I’ve told really fun stories with friends, colleagues, and family. I started a TTRPG blog, created a podcast, and started running games professionally.
There’s nothing quite like tabletop roleplaying games, and I may have never started if it weren’t for my first Dungeon Master, and cousin, Hamish Sharik.
My Interview with Hamish
As a long time Game Master, Hamish knows his stuff when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons. He incorporates his years of problem solving in the tech sector with his vast Dungeon Mastering experience to bring a professional level of immersion, awareness, and adaptability at the table. We had the chance to chat about how he cultivates those moments at the table. He shares his tips to creating deep immersion, finding inspiration, and fostering roleplay, both as a player and game master.
I’m excited to share his insights in Episode 9 of the Engineered Adventures RPG Talk Podcast.
Hamish cares a lot about creating immersion in his games. He engages your physical senses. Through an active blend of curated soundtracks, physical lighting, and sometimes even food, creates a mood and atmosphere that makes it easy to fall into the game. From there, he encourages people diving into the game, recommending liberal rewards for active roleplay. He keeps notes of his players actions and uses them to influence the story, creating a narrative that’s truly driven by the player’s actions.
“You’re a successful game master when your players have told their story.”
When you know your players you create games that keep everyone invested. As you learn to understand your players, you’ll grow as an effective game master. It starts with awareness. Notice what they like, what they do, and you’ll know how to tailor the story with nuance. It takes practice though, learning to be open, to be willing to flow with what they do, and adjust your story to help foster that roleplaying.
Hamish recommends rewarding roleplay, liberally. Give boons, items, and even praise for owning the story and taking the narrative in interesting and meaningful ways. Learn to love when things don’t go as expected and find ways to reward that.
Adaptability and flexibility are the hallmarks of a great Dungeon Master. It can be overwhelming to be ready for each and every way the players change, adapt, and make personal the story. Things can go in radically different ways than you expected, and that can be a lot to manage. Hamish recommends giving yourself a break. Learn to go with the flow and find your creativity through your flexibility. The greatest stories happen when you’re well off the beaten path.
Your prep can help you be more flexible too. Keep yourself organized. It doesn’t matter what tools you use, as long as you’re able to keep all your things in order. Remember what your players did so you can reference it later. Find creativity through other forms of media you like. Incorporatings things and making them your own will give you lots of content to fall back on in game.
Limit your scope as you prep. Don’t overplan or overthink. Doing this will help you flesh out meaningful ideas and help it feel more real. As you flesh things out, you start to get a feel for how your world, and your story all works together. By fleshing things on a smaller scale, you actually prepare to be more adaptable, since you’re able to draw on a complex world to help you improvise.
Think Outside the Box
For both players and game masters alike, Hamish encourages you to think outside the box. Find opportunities to explore new things. Push the story in cool directions. Really think about the world and find ways you can make the story your own.
Quotes to Remember
- “Learn and understand your setting. See how things work without the players so you can be ready for what they do.”
- “Limit your scope. Don’t Overplan. Don’t overthink.”
- “Tell a story of the players at the table. Let that be your focus.”
- “If you hit a wall, take a break and expose yourself to something new.”
- “Do what inspires you. It gives you a clean slate.”
- “Practice, Practice, Practice
- “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
- “It’s always the unexpected that leads to good stories.”
- “Don’t Be Batman”