Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Burgeoning Game Master

I had a proud moment yesterday when I got home from work. I spied a pad of graph paper on the classroom table and didn't remember leaving it out, so I opened it up to the first page to find this:

This is Elerisa's first dungeon map. Actually I think it's supposed to be a castle of some kind, but in D&D, for convenience, we call any mapped collection of encounters a "dungeon." Elerisa wants to become a game master (GM) (alternatively, "DM" for dungeon master), and she has taken the initiative to draw up her first map. Her imagination is obviously kicking into high gear: check out the "never ending corridor" and the disembodied hypnotic eye.

I remember the first time I started drawing up dungeon maps. I was about the same age as her. I don't think mine was this cool. I'm pretty excited for her, because being a GM was an exciting and fulfilling part of my life growing up, and I know what's ahead for her. GMing has a lot in common with creative writing. Every good adventure has narrative elements, parts the GM writes in advance and reads out loud to the players. The difference is that with an RPG you get instant "reader" feedback in the form of how your players react. Your mind takes some rather interesting journeys both when you're playing the game and when you're preparing for it, and whole worlds open up in your mind's eye.

From a homeschool perspective, this is obviously a good thing for any number of reasons, some pretty obvious like the ones I just mentioned. I'll just add that Elerisa's mapping demonstrates skills she learned from my wife last year, specifically about mapping. You can't see it in the picture, but there's a legend and a compass on the next sheet of paper. She didn't provide scale, but I think I know why. During game play, we've been using a piece of Plexiglas over a large sheet of 1" graph paper, as shown here. Each square is 5', but I'm not sure she knows that, nor has she seen the much smaller maps I keep behind my GM screen for reference, where one quarter-inch square equals ten or even twenty feet. Or maybe she understands perfectly and just forgot to add the scale to her map. I'll have to ask her about it.

Game mastering also requires a host of other skills that one could argue translate perfectly to the business world: project management, dispute resolution, team building, and facilitating meetings, to name a few. Not that I'd want to curse my kids for all eternity by damning them to the hellish world of cubicles, but if they wind up in that foul place regardless, then I'll be proud to have equipped them with the tools they'll need to survive by introducing them to this wonderful game.