I Still Get Nervous

Why do I still get nervous when I run a D&D game for groups I’ve never played with? Why do I get nervous to run a game that I’ll be playing with my closest friends just because it’s with a new rules system or is in a genre I’ve never used? You’d think that after so many years of playing, and successfully navigating so many different situations, I’d be as well equipped as anyone could be to run a game. That’s the reality of the situation though for me; in an upcoming game, I’ll be running a sci-fi horror story, which I’ve never done before. I’m really nervous about it.

When I plan my sessions ahead of time, I usually stick to bullet point ideas. They have a general flow, but I don’t organize much or break down details for everything. I plan general ideas, and some key elements, and a direction for the story, but it’s pretty free form. I allow myself to run things on the fly, and respond to the cues I pick up from the players. Good players also carry a lot of the burden, and will fill time with great dialogue and discussion about where the party should go. A big part of my nervousness comes from my inability to predict what kinds of situations I will need to deal with on the fly. My confidence comes with running systems I have run before, because I know what rules to use and what stories work. Days before a game where something is new, I am trying to prep myself to make choices on things I’ve never experienced. I know I’ll have a tiny window during the game in which to respond to player actions and questions, and I know I can only get so ready on so little information.

I also don’t know what my players are going to like, and this is a tough thing for me. I really strive to be a good DM for everyone, and want to create the most enjoyable experience. I carefully consider homebrew content for how it might enhance aspects of the game that don’t work. With new systems, I could end up running an entire four hour session and discover it’s not really working. What’s funny is that I logically know the players wouldn’t care, but it stings me, because I always want to be a good DM. I recognize the value in learning through playing it, but the fear it might not go well is what makes me nervous ahead of time.

This post is short, and is a bit more like a diary entry, but I wanted other DMs out there to know that, whatever you’re feeling and struggling with in this game, that’s normal. I’m never going to get over my nervousness, and it’s a good sign, because that shows I still care about improving and doing well. You won’t always walk into a game session with confidence, and you won’t always get the best reactions from your players, but know that it’s all part of it. Taking up the mantle of DM will always be a little bit scary in new situations, so have no fear. Well, have a little bit of fear… that’s my point.

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