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Passing the Torch

"A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king."
- Mufasa, The Lion King

I've been the default Dungeon Master since I started playing D&D.  I spent some time as a player, yet when my DM decided he didn't want to play anymore, the duty fell to me.  I jumped on it and haven't looked back since.  However, I realize that while I DM, there have been very little opportunities to let others DM and get some experience.

My brother has spoken of DMing for a long time.  However, when it comes to large groups and large games, he always ends up being a player due to the fact that he's participating in the campaign, not working behind the scenes.  However, with the D&D Open Playtest, this gives a lot more opportunities for one-shot games and exploration of the rules and just trying to have fun with the various aspects of the game.  And so, my group gave him the reins and told him to create an adventure for us to explore and interact with.

He started the game with some orc raiders that were ransacking towns and raiding villages.  The heroes interrogated some of the orcs and found out they were collecting the captives to fuel some sort of rituals.  In the last battle, the heroes tracked down the orcs to a fallen stronghold in the woods.  Due to some careful scouting, the party knew pretty much the entire layout of the keep.  It was packed with orcs.


As a group, we were excited to see something like this.  However, my brother, the new DM, had thrown us for a new loop: there were some drow working behind the scenes with the orcs all along.  What they wanted, nobody knew, because as the heroes attacked the keep, the drow decided that had enough of the orcs and began fighting them to steal the captives and use some ruined stairs to escape back into the Underdark.

For myself, this was a huge twist in the adventure.  The drow escaped, and the heroes had no answers.  To make matters worse, one of the PC's fell, and the orcs scooped him up as a prisoner and escaped into the Underdark.  Maybe he's not dead, but he can't really be played anymore for now.  At the end of the evening, I was in complete shock, and realized that I had emotional investment in the return of these townspeople.  I then realized that my brother had done a great job, not just with his encounters and making the game feel epic, but creating twists and plots and involving me in the story.  

I sat there at the end of the night and thought "Holy cow, he could be a really good DM."  The group decided that he would continue to DM our next adventure, as we all want to dive into the Underdark and find out what's going on with the prisoners!

I think most DM's have a very hard time giving up the reins and letting somebody else take over, especially when running a long campaign.  Lately, I've been having a lot of fun running mini games, just to see what other DM's are going to run and allowing myself a chance to play.  I'll be honest, getting to play instead of DM was a great relief and brought a lot of happiness to sit back and focus on my character.

I hope this story gives everybody else some inspiration to let others try their hand at DMing. Seeing someone succeed at it is extremely satisfying to watch, and being a part of an adventure when you don't know all the answers is an experience that is sorely lacking from behind the DM screen.

As always, be sure to leave comments below, and follow me on Twitter @artificeralf


  1. Leaving the behind the screen world behind is very hard. I have GMed for along time now, but having a chance to play has opened up a new world to me or an old world long forgotten. Memories as GM are different than a player. As a GM you remember the stories as a whole not as an individual.
    You see becoming a player again means I get to remember the little or even the not so little things that I as my PC has done during a game. They way an orc is dispatched or they way I interacted with that villager. Players have the good life and can recall it however and when ever they want. The GM needs never out weigh the players. So for now. I like being a player. Letting someone else hide behind that GM wall is and always will be an awesome experience. Never underestimate the power of a player.

    1. I would have to agree. As a DM, I remember most of the overall story. As a player, I remember the sacrifices I made and the tension I felt during combat. Totally different feelings. I think spending time away from the screen can always help making you a better DM.

  2. I use to DM 90% of the time myself, and like you, especially with D&D Next, my brother DMs sometimes now too, giving me a rare chance to be a player.

    He's been awesome, and really took off to a whole new level in our Dragon Age campaign.

    I love teaching the game to new players too. I guess passing the torch and teaching are in our blood as DMs!

    P.S. Please tell me - where did you get that awesome poster map? I want one!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I'm glad use DM's can agree on these things. :)

      The poster map was in the Map Pack: Shattered Keeps.


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