After much discussion, advice, research, devil's advocacy and contemplation, I feel that I will be ready to offer one-on-one classes in How to DM starting no later than a week today. I feel that there is a marketable demand for this service. I feel that I am up to the task and that I'm perfectly capable of teaching such a course. And I feel that a reasonable price for such a course would be somewhere between $45 and $60 per class (three classes would be three times that amount).
Sessions would be enabled through Skype. I've used Skype before, though not for a long time, so part of my task this week will be to take a refresher course. I foresee sessions would run between 60 and 90 minutes, in order to allow flexibility regarding the end of a session. At this point I'm going to offer three classes (and undoubtedly with some sort of deal if the DM wants to buy three sessions in advance). For the moment I want to concentrate on three things: presentation, communication and adventure planning. I'll be more specific about these in a moment.
I could talk about other things, but for the moment I feel these are universal and don't require any discussion of rule systems or specific character design. Like the book I wrote, I would rather approach the material from a genre-free perspective, since how the DM acts, speaks or creates drama is a universal condition based upon our being human beings, not based on what system we play.
For the moment, I feel it would be wisest for me to offer a few well-considered subjects until I get my legs under me. This is a learning curve for me as well, for while I have given advice now on the blog for 8 years, I have answered hundreds of direct questions about games and I have been there to counsel other players and DMs in role-playing games for more than three decades, I need to integrate these skills into a lengthy, personal approach that will work with people through the internet who are unfamiliar to me. I am glad that I had the experiences I've had with fans of RPGs in Toronto and Edmonton recently. I do believe, from talking to literally hundreds of strangers at those events, that the chances of meeting someone toxic (and willing to pay money upfront for the privilege of being such) is virtually zero.
There are some who will be against this; and some who will feel that I'm not the person they'd want to get advice from. However, the response and the numbers of people who have expressed interest has been very encouraging. The rest is up to me. As I said before the weekend, I have a firm belief that the solution is not to preach an ideal but to promote investigation into each DM's individual challenges and to find solutions that will work for them. To this, I'll add that a very strong part of the lesson plan will be to help create confidence and assurance in the DM, to encourage a greater willingness to run and to run well.
I feel I am able to teach DMs how to turn left when they say right.
Here is a breakdown of the three classes:
Class 1: Presentation:
Many will feel that this is their biggest hurdle, for many DMs are over-aware of their own failings where it comes to engaging their players, gaining their focus, delivering descriptions and ideas that are compelling, creating a positive impression and worst of all, learning to "think on our feet." Obviously, no one should expect miracles after an hour or so of evaluation. However, having a voice that can deconstruct what we're doing, encourage our ability to speak more passionately and with greater energy, while enabling us to "hear" how we sound from another person's perspective can put us on the right path in finding out what we need to do in the future. It isn't that we can solve problems overnight, but we can gain insight into how to solve those problems. We are each one of us different - but an ear other than our own, unafraid to give us real perspective and offer real direction, that is something everyone can gain from.
Class 2: Communication:
The way that DMs and Players interact is so often presented in the worst possible light in our hobby, with one side claiming that DMs are absolute rulers and the other that DMs take the game way too seriously. It's very important that we understand that it is not the DM's role to impose our will upon the players or to use our title as DM to win an argument. At the same time, Players must be guided to understand that we have limitations, that we are operating within those limitations and that the underlying principles of a successful role-playing game demands that we are all on the same page. This class wants to help DMs better connect with their players, producing a symbiosis in the game that enables both DM and Players together to move towards a common goal: DM as facilitator and Players as participants. A substantial part of this class would revolve around the student "running their world," supported by propositions on how we, together, feel that we could improve the message that has been given.
Class 3: Adventure Building:
Here we are speaking of creating the adventure that the players will run on, not the world that Players will run in. First and foremost, I will focus on the DM's role in these adventures: how the DM 'fits' into what's happening, what elements we will want to include - and most important, how we should not be bullied by the expectations of the Players and ourselves to make bigger, better, greater, more imaginative games. All too often, we bite off more than we can choose, trying to 'impress' in order not to fail, only to build adventures that fail catastrophically. Here I can offer considerable insight on what Players really want from a campaign, what they can expect and how we can train ourselves to start easy and build confidence and ability before asking ourselves to build the moon.
Let me say as a placeholder that the exact means of how payment is delivered will be left for the next post that I right. For this post, it is best that we limit any consideration to content alone.
Comments, please. I strongly recommend that readers ask me to better explain any element in the above three classes that seems doubtful - not only for me, but for everyone else who might be reading who may not think to ask such a question. I have no doubts whatsoever about my ability to deliver on these three tutorials - the more I talk about them, the stronger I will be on how to communicate the prospects that others will gain from each tutorial.
I think this is going to be a lot of fun, that it will be powerfully enlightening and that it could be the start that brings an end to many a new DM's frustrations.