February is DM appreciation month and I’m writing a series of articles in which I spotlight and thank some of the best DMs I’ve ever had the pleasure and privilege of playing with. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of good DMs over the years. When you’ve played as much D&D as I have you know when you get a good DM; someone who brings something extra to the table that sets them apart from the rest. Today we look at another one of those great DMs.
Last week I told you all about DM Curtis, today I’m going to tell you about DM Jay (a.k.a. Suddry). Jay and I met at the D&D table about 15 years ago and he’s been a part of my weekly Sunday night home game ever since. When 4e D&D was launched Jay decided that he wanted to take a stab at being the DM, something he’d never done before. It was a new system so why not usher in a new DM along with it. The experience was fantastic and Jay opened our eyes to new possibilities of what a DM could do.
At first Jay was like any other good DM. He envisioned a grand adventure that would bring the PC from level 1 to level 30; a bold feat that we worked to complete for about five years. The campaign was called Rise of the Phoenix and the teaser he gave us was “If the phoenix rises, death will surely follow.” The premise revolved around finding six magic items that were part of the Phoenix Regalia. Each item on its own was a powerful magic item, but as more items were brought together the power of each was multiplied exponentially. Once the PCs were made aware of the items’ existence they had to find each one and recover it before their enemies.
What we didn’t expect was Jay’s effort to make the gaming experience go beyond our weekly meetings around the gaming table. To enhance our gaming experience and add a new dimension to our D&D game, Jay created a campaign blog. This was new. We’d never done anything like it before. Initially Jay wanted it to act as a repository of the camping history. He would post a summary of the week’s events and we could review them as needed. It was great when a player missed a session or we took a break for the holidays.
The blog quickly became a lot more than just a place to post the weekly recaps. Jay made a point of giving the important NPCs their own blog entry that included their history and a picture. He also asked each player to make a blog post for their character. This let the other players get to know your PC and what they could do. Remember, we’d just started 4e so we were all still learning what each class’s powers were. By having your character’s stats and powers captured in the blog we could run your PC as an NPC when you were absent.
We immediately fell in love with the blog. Each player decided to write blog posts between gaming session that were written in the voices of our characters. These took the forms of letters to loved ones, journal entries, drunk talk in a tavern, and prayers. As each player posted another entry it allowed us to keep playing (in a way) between sessions. We now had a chance to really develop the characters. Often we’d all describe the week’s session through the eyes of our own characters taking into account their point of view and their stats. The subtle differences really showed how the characters were very different people.
It was the campaign blog that inspired Wimwick and I to create Dungeon’s Master. We had so much fun writing the blog for our game that we wanted to keep on blogging about D&D. Thanks in large part to DM Jay this website exists. His campaign blog help us realize that we could add to the D&D community in a constructive and helpful way and have a blast doing it.
Unfortunately the Rise of the Phoenix campaign was put on long-term hiatus when Jay became a father and was unable to run the weekly game. We eventually returned to it, but we’d lost the desire to keep up with the blog entries and it returned to its original purpose of being nothing more than a place to post the weekly adventure recap. Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed the game and Jay was doing a wonderful job as the DM, but it was clear that the campaign blog was a big part of what brought everything together.
Jay remains a regular player in my weekly game, but he hasn’t been the DM since we began playing 5e. I’m sure in the year to come he’ll get that itch to be the DM again, and I can’t wait. He is certainly one of the best DMs I’ve played under and once again I want to say thank you to DM Jay for doing such a great job and for showing us how significant a blog can be to the campaign. Thanks to the blog I really felt like I know Ethan, Nenia, Braddock, Sterling and Delian. Thank you.