In an effort to increase my rate at which I play D&D, I have decided to reach out to friends in far away places and start an online campaign. When I first decided to do this, I was afraid I was going to end up striking out and having no one wanting, or at least not having the time, to play. Thankfully, I happened to find four people that not only wanted to play, but had the time to. What was once a pipe dream is now a reality, and suddenly all the things that could go wrong have started sinking in.
My first thoughts were simply on the technological side. We’re going to be using Skype to conference, and I know that there are issues that could arise from using it. My PC has a bad habit of dropping internet at random times. My mic and webcam could fail to work. I could have the audio inputs all wrong and end up with horrific audio quality. When I am afraid of something, my mind always goes to the pragmatic problems because my subconscious knows that those are the problems I can fix. I hate not having control of a problematic situation so sticking with the issues that I can control is psychologically satisfying.
Next, my brain jumps to the game itself. What if the adventure I present to my players is boring? What if they don’t engage with the conflicts? What if the players end up hating each other? Any DM knows that player chemistry is important to character interaction and player engagement. I imagine one of the players getting so frustrated that they simply leave the call. They can leave the call! How embarrassing would it be for a player to just say, “Fuck this, it’s dumb,” and just leaving. That option is usually not available when you’re playing around a table in real life. Yet, that fear is real to me.
And of course, my social anxiety is always prevalent when it comes to interacting with anyone, even people I know. Three of the four players are people I’m friends with. The fourth is a friend of a friend. If I suck, or if I come off as mean or condescending, he may or may not have my behavior reflect poorly on our mutual friend. How terrifying that I could cause such an issue!
These are the things that cross my mind when starting anything new. I love DM’ing, I love the game, and I want to share it with anyone I possibly can. I worry that I might not be a worthy steward of the game. Tech issues, social tension between players, and my performance are all problems my mind dwells upon instead of what it should dwell on: presenting a compelling story for my players to engage in and become invested in. Worrying about the other things will certainly take from my ability to deliver a good story, so I’ve got to figure out how to prevent that.
I consider myself a decent DM. I only have a little experience, but I’ve learned a lot very quickly. My confidence in my skills is still developing. I see this new campaign as a way to develop new skills and improve my DM style. But being one who is not neurotypical, my brain has a habit of getting in the way. I consider D&D as my happy place and the anxiety and worry invading it feels overwhelming and causes even more anxiety.
What would you fellow DM’s do in such a situation? Any tips and tricks would be appreciated!