Are these DMs on fire? Why, yes, I believe they are.

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D&D Tuesday Tips For DMs (DNDTTFDM) 05-27-08

The innovation party

This week I suggested that a few of my colleagues and I get locked into a hotel conference room for 36 hours.  I call it an innovation party to make it sound fun.  The point would be to design, code, and release an innovative service for our project – Hawaii Life, a real estate search engine – in a ridiculously short amount of time and then when we’re done we get trashed or something.

The innovation party approach can be adapted for DMs looking to improve their games.

The DMing party

Get together with at least 1 other DM. Set aside a few hours in a neutral environment – school, library, coffee shop, Switzerland – and work on your upcoming game or campaign.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not working on the same project.  What you are sharing is energy, ideas, and goals. (If you don’t have DM friends, read the last paragraph of this article)

The keys to a successful DM party

  • Time.  No matter how long your time block is, it can’t be extended.  You have to harness the power of deadlines and it can be done even if there’s no negative outcome for not completing what you undertake.
  • Reward.  No negative outcome? No problem.  You’ll be just as motivated if there’s a reward at the end of the DM party.  The reward has to be substantial.  Maybe the gathering will turn into an actual party!  Or maybe you can allow yourself to splurge on a D&D book or minis!
  • Goal(s).  How much free time do you have?  If you manage to get yourself into a DM party you’d better have at least one specific goal.  Having a defined goal heading into the party will help you get to work and it provides a solid starting block for some creative and productive prep time.
  • Partner(s).  Not only do you party buddies help you brainstorm and cook up unique scenes, they also share the weight of looming failure to meet self-set goals.  Telling people you’re going to do something is a great way to get motivated – you won’t want to finish short of what you claimed you were going to do!

The origin of the innovation party

I never enjoyed school that much.  I hated the classes – all of them.  But I was fond of the college parties  and camaraderie.  So to motivate myself to study I’d invite a few friends – and sometimes cute girls from class – for chemistry and physics parties, with free beer available for everyone starting at 9pm.  I invited people over around 3 or 4pm so we had 5ish hours of studying followed by 5ish hours of brain cell apocalypse.

I graduated from college less than 10 years after graduating from High School.  I say that’s pretty good.

What do you think?  Anything you might add to the concept?

I hope this will help someone. Have fun prepping, DMing and partying!Don’t have DM buddies?

Maybe some of your friends are aspiring writers?  There’s a lot of the in the RPG crowd.  Maybe you can use a service like Nearby Gamers to plan a DM party?  Maybe you can go to GenCon?  And if you’re from Montreal or Kauai you can e-mail me as I’m available every now and then.

5 thoughts on “Are these DMs on fire? Why, yes, I believe they are.”

  1. Building a map together is exactly the idea behind Dawn of Worlds, which is a slightly more formalized version of your experiment Johnn. I like the idea of doing it over a week or two, as you propose– we had trouble fitting it all into a night. [On the other hand, 36 hours might have been overkill…]

  2. I’ve done a mini version of this before a couple of times, with mixed success. The first was for a shared campaign. It didn’t go so well, as we just stared at each other and things felt forced. What we were missing was a common idea spark to riff off of.

    The second time worked much better. It wasn’t a group of DMs, but a mixed group of DMs and players who wanted to co-create a common realm for our adventures. Players wanted to play more often in a consistent setting. DMs wanted to create a world without having to do the whole job themselves.

    We started with a map, which ended up being the key to success. It was visual. We made copies as we went. People could grab a copy and scrawl anything they wanted on it, experimenting or making notes. “Keepers” were added to the original map.

    Haven’t done anything like this in years. Seems like the Internet would be ideal. Who has 36 hours contiguous real time to dedicate to RPGs these days? So, maybe hit a dedicated forum with live chat or twitter, and let members login and keep the momentum going.

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