Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Advanced Guide to Managing Roleplaying Games

December 16, 2011, I wrote a post called "How to DM" ... and that has definitely been my most popular post in the last year.  For the month of November, it received 1,400 page views all on its own ... which isn't bad, given that it's in the distant past and pretty long for a blog post.

I've been playing with the idea of writing a book to match the post, something considerably longer of course, at least 50-60 thousand words.  Last week, a few other people suggested I do the same, so I think there's an interest.  I've been thinking on it since the weekend ... how it would be written, what it would cover, what would be its purpose.

I have no worries about trademarks.  It is legal to write about Pepsi or Coke without getting their permission to use the product names.  This is journalism.  I can't sell a pop with Coke's name; and I can't liable Coke, or misrepresent it.  There are some issues with having a character drink coke in a fiction novel.  But I can refer to Coke in passing.

So long as I don't represent myself as a spokesperson for D&D, or say things that would threaten its sales, I can use the term "DM" and I can describe elements of D&D and other roleplaying games.  Or so I have come to understand it.

I think I would call a book "How to DM" with the subtitle, "An Advanced Guide to Managing Role-playing Games."  I would write it specifically for people who had played D&D for quite a long time.  I would not waste any time explaining to a person who had never played before how to manage a game.  I have no interest in competing with all the other books whose sole purpose is to do that, and therefore to cover the same tired ground that only people who know nothing can comprehend.

I would not write anything about designing a dungeon.  I would not offer ideas about how to produce puzzles or conundrums, or offer any tables on ... well, anything.  This would not be a book that included a lot of dead white space filled with charts and pictures.  I would not put ANY pictures into the book.  I am definitely thinking that, since D&D is so much about selling shit using pictures, I would intentionally include a front cover without any pictures.  Picture books are for children.  I would not want to write my D&D book for children.

What would be included, I think, would be a series of 5 to 15 thousand word essays, in depth, detailed, patiently discussing as many elements of a particular part of the game as I could deconstruct.  Managing different kinds of players; Managing yourself; Approaching the setting; Sandboxing; Creating conflict; and probably something about loving the game, though I haven't cemented that last in my head yet.

It takes a considerable amount of ego to write ANY book.  It says that you think you're so interesting that another person will sit while you talk for sixty-thousand words at them.  This is about the equivalent of ten uninterrupted hours.  If you're going to think in your mind that you have 10 hours of worthwhile things to say, you're going to have to have an ego.

Do I think I know something about this game?  Yes I do.  In part because I've played it for 33 years, but also because of what else I've done during that time.  I think mostly its that I've spent a lot of it deconstructing people, learning what makes them tick, learning what makes them want to be appreciated or why they need to be pushed.  People are terribly complicated, but there are a few things which they tend to share in common:  most look for their own worth in the eyes of other people; most do not question the precepts they were given when they first began anything, including life; and anything recommended as uncomfortable, difficult or time consuming is advice that almost certainly will not be taken.

Why would the gentle reader read this book?  Because it will provoke thought.  It will advance ideas the way this blog does.  It will promote things you haven't heard before.  It will offer insights into things you've taken for granted.  It will confirm your beliefs about things that you've never heard anyone else say ... things you've doubted, but won't any more, because you will not be alone in the world.  It will not be personal, but I hope like hell I can make parts of it funny.  Sometimes I'm a funny person.

I think it will be worth the read.  I think it will cost about the same amount as D&D for Dummies ... which seems to me right and proper.

When?  Well, finishing up another book right now, but starting on this one right after.  Right now, optimistically, I'd say six months.  It's not a matter of research.  I've researched this game just about every day of my life.  So that should tighten up the time necessary.  Still, I expect it will be hard to write, since I'd want it to be worthy of me, and worthy of all of you, many of whom will no doubt disagree with every word.


  1. Make sure to include your recent Crossover post in some form or another. Good stuff.

  2. I'll take 5 copies.

    Hell, I'll take a dozen. I have a friend who runs a comic and games store, and he'll sell them.

    Alexis, I think this is the one area of gaming that has not had nearly enough discussion or instruction.


  3. This is what I've always wanted to hear from this blog, ever since I started reading back in '08.

    I cannot wait to see this.

  4. This is the type of book that is sorely lacking in the hobby. It's something else than re-beating the same dead horse, or covering the same ground yet again, even if it was done in a new and more colourful way. I would certainly buy it.

  5. Since I started reading your blog, Alexis, I've found here many of the ideas that have occurred to me for the almost 12 years I've been designing my own system (which is still very far from completion, since I want it to be perfect yet I dedicate too little time to it). Only I usually find them improved, more thoroughly thought over. And much more I never dreamed of. Plus an assortment of interesting ideas and comments. Plus a trove of DM experiences and advice. Plus many, many interesting thought experiments, and food for even more thought. And a crash course about being cutting and harsh because this is your goddamn place. So it's been an informational and inspirational trip, both as an aspiring DM (and now that I measure myself against you, I think I will be "aspiring" in my eyes for a long, long time) and simply as a human being. Just to think of seeing all that condensed into a book...

    But what was I saying? Oh, yes, something simple, really. I'd love to read that book.

  6. Glad to hear it. Will buy.

    Your words of wisdom are a constant inspiration.

  7. Good. 1. Write it all. 2. Edit it once. 3. Bury it in the back yard for a few months. 4. Dig it up and edit it a second time. 5. Let a few of us read it. 6. Final edit. 7. Submit. I can't suggest any more or less.

  8. So sorry I somehow missed this post the first time. Consider this heartfelt encouragement. I can't wait to read it.


If you wish to leave a comment on this blog, contact with a direct message. Comments, agreed upon by reader and author, are published every Saturday.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.