If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
~ Bob Dylan – The Times They Are a-Changin’
What follows is likely the most personal entry in the history of my blog. It is the culmination of a number of major events in my life and many weeks of thought. There will not be any specific tidbits or suggestions for running a RPG campaign (those will return next week), although I believe some of the things discussed below (e.g., shifting priorities, work/life balance) may resonant with others in similar situations.
Perhaps the best place to ignite this self-disclosure fire is a conversation I had with my Unofficial Blogging Mentor, Mike Shea. He asked me an interesting question during dinner one night at Gen Con:
Where do you want to take The Id DM?
While it’s a question I considered often during the life of the blog, I did not have a very good answer for him in the moment. Spending a few days at Gen Con rubbing shoulders with other prominent bloggers, writers and designers in the D&D and RPG community was fantastic . . . but it also resulted in a personal swim through existential waters. It forced me to really think about the question, “What am I trying to accomplish with the blog?”
Genesis & Growth
The Id DM initially served as a creative outlet for me; I thought I had a unique perspective to add to the online conversation about D&D with my combat speed analysis. From there I wrote about my personal experiences running and playing games while weaving in my background as a psychologist. The interviews have been a great deal of fun as I personally enjoy communicating and learning from interesting people.
The growth of the blog in terms of numbers (e.g., comments, site stats) and inclusion in the online RPG community has been rewarding. I will not lie – being asked to join several podcasts to discuss gaming was great fun and also functioned as reinforcement that my efforts on the blog were worthwhile. It was rewarding to learn that I was not simply writing into the ether; other people in the community were reading my posts and having reactions. More people followed me on Twitter and various recognizable people in the RPG community were mentioning or retweeting links to my articles. There were times when my focus for the blog was to strive for the next Big Bad Brass Ring.
I have been fortunate to grab several brass rings over the last 18 months, and I am grateful for all of them. For example, the fact that I have been able to interview some prominent names in the RPG world continues to be a delightful surprise. I’m proud of my persistence to make some of those interviews a reality. This post isn’t meant to be one long Humble Brag, but considering I wasn’t playing D&D three years ago and just started a blog in March 2011, I’m proud of the content featured on the site.
I have enjoyed the great privilege of playing with the same core group players for over three years. Tomorrow evening, I will be ending my gaming relationship with the group forever. Last month, we ended the campaign where I played a Dragonborn Rogue (excuse me while I take a deep sigh as I recall with fondness the homicidally brave, J’hari Wrex), and tomorrow I will be ending my homebrew campaign that has spanned Levels 1-16. The group continues to function well, but I am the reason for the campaign coming to an end.
Earlier this summer, I applied for a job in another state – and that application later turned into a job offer. After much discussion with my wife, we decided to take our talents to the Twin Cities and move across the country from Texas to Minnesota. We move in three short weeks, and gaming-related interests have taken a back seat! The job opportunity is extremely exciting and another reason we are moving to Minnesota is to be closer to family; I’m originally from New Jersey and my wife is from Minnesota. Texas is quite far from both of those places and we always considered moving back to one of our home states when the time was right. The time feels right and this is a great opportunity for us.
For the greater portion of the last two years, I have been playing D&D three or four times each month as either a player or DM. In a somewhat ironic development, my DDI subscription ran out last week and I have no plans to renew it at this time. This is in no way an indictment of Dungeons & Dragons! After our final session tomorrow night, I’m not sure of the next time that I will play D&D. I have family and friends who are interested in starting a campaign once I get settled in after the move. However, we would get together to play – at most – perhaps once per month, and it is likely we will spend some of that RPG time playtesting Blade Raiders. The amount of material I will have to mine for new articles is likely going to diminish. I still want to play D&D, but it’s going to be very low on the list of priorities in the coming months – and I wonder if D&D will ever rise this high on my list of priorities again.
Where Do I Want To Take The Id DM?
It is time to return to the question I received from Mike Shea,“Where do you want to take The Id DM?” When I processed the question, I asked myself, “Is what I’m already doing with the site enough?” For me, I think the answer is – yes, it is enough. I have a full-time job that requires a great deal of mental energy and commitment. I’m not interested at all in leaving my profession to break into the gaming industry as a writer or designer. That’s not to say I do not take publishing content on the site seriously; I put a great deal of thought into anything I post. I like playing games and writing and this blog has served as a wonderful creative outlet for me; I believe I’m satisfied with the current scope of The Id DM.
Sure, I think it would be amazing to make a good living writing columns on topics I find interesting, but I have no delusions that I’m going to be the next Chuck Klosterman and be hired to write for a professional publication. Obviously, if someone came along to pay me to write columns or put together some type of book on psychological aspects of roleplaying games (or whatever) as a side endeavor, then that would be something I would consider. But I do not foresee that opportunity in the future and I am not actively perusing that type of development for the blog or “my brand.” I think I have demonstrated quite a bit of initiative and motivation to increase the footprint of the blog since it’s inception, but that has slowed down in recent months as our move to Minnesota has become a reality.
In the future, I see myself writing articles as time allows and conducting interviews when someone is kind enough to spend time communicating with me. I’m in the process of experimenting with taking a longer period of time to write “feature” columns. For example, I have been drafting a column and series of interviews on the topic of online distribution and intellectual property. I became very interested in the topic a few months back and have taken my time to research the subject before posting a finished column. I’ve been interviewing a variety of people and one of them is not even involved in the gaming industry. My approach to the column is perhaps a bit of a risk, and I’m curious to see the results!
Big Bad Brass Rings
There are times when I wonder, “What am I doing with my time? Why bother writing another post? This isn’t my job!” I have chased a number of Big Bad Brass Rings along the way. The first was simply site stats, which I thankfully got over obsessing about rather quickly. The next was getting included on
4eblogs DnDblogs and that was a big boost to the exposure of the site. The next was attempting to interview more prominent individuals in the RPG community and write articles that would get noticed (in addition to writing about topics I was genuinely curious about). And to be brutally honest, I found myself trying to do enough with the site to hoist an ENnie – even though I have no idea what criteria is used to award Best Blog.
Learning that my blog didn’t make the list of finalists for the ENnie Best Blog Award was - for lack of a better word – a bummer. I was under the mistaken notion that since someone from the ENnies encouraged me to enter the contest, it was a strong possibility that I would make the final cut. In reality, my blog is small potatoes compared to great sites like Critical Hits and Gnome Stew, and my blog is very young as I only started the site last year. I’m one guy writing once or twice each week while other sites host multiple authors and cover a much wider range of the RPG landscape. Stepping back, I realized there is no way winning an ENnie is realistic now or in the future. And not to get all Eddie Vedder at The Grammys, but what would it even mean to me?
It’d certainly be a healthy booster shot to my ego and increase the exposure of my site, but in my day-to-day life it’s not going to matter if my blog takes off, remains at its current level or falls off the face of the earth because I’m too busy curling or playing broomball to write new content! I realize I have been extremely fortunate with the great level of feedback, validation and acknowledgement I have received from many in the RPG community and my readers. I am truly thankful for what I have already gained, and it is an honor to even be included as a member of the “RPG Blogging Community.”
When all is said and done, I still very much feel like an outsider. Immersing myself in Gen Con last month emphasized just how little I know about tabletop gaming including D&D. Folks at the convention were discussing differences in editions, monsters that have appeared throughout the game’s history, other games I have never had a chance to play and many other subjects that were over my head. Compared to my non-gaming friends, I’m a huge gaming nerd that spends too much time playing D&D and writing about the game; I’m seen as an expert. Compared to many at Gen Con, I’m an inexperienced new player, DM and blogger; I’m seen as a novice. It is all a matter of perspective.
It reminds me of my thoughts on being a fan of a band. And since I just referenced Eddie Vedder, I will say that I love Pearl Jam, own all of their albums, went to the one-night showing of PJ20 and have seen them numerous times in concert. My affiliation with all things Pearl Jam reaches a spiritual level, but compared to the good folks on the Ten Club forum and others who have seen the band perform 200+ times, I don’t know squat about the band. I’m fine with that. I don’t begrudge their level of dedication, interest or fandom. I’m perfectly happy enjoying Pearl Jam in my way.
I believe I can say the same about my relationship with D&D. I understand I’m never going to be as knowledgeable about D&D like the many people I interacted with at Gen Con. I’m going to continue enjoying the hobby in my own way, and I will enjoy being involved in the ongoing discussion. However, I think it is a good time for me to drop some of the Big Bad Brass Ring motivations that have fueled my writing (and ambition) during the past 18 months.
On a lighter note, one Big Bad Brass Ring I failed to achieve was getting Wil Wheaton to respond to my column on the death of his character, Aeofel, and how Wil’s reactions in-game and after the session demonstrated the five stages of grief. Perhaps it’ll happen one of these days. If anyone can help make this happen, then that would be awesome. See, I’m not completely giving up all motivations!
Another motivation I maintain is to create a slick book version of the content from the site in a yearly volume format. It would be a good historical record of the site and something I can tangibly hold and set on a shelf. I do not have any plans to attempt selling these volumes; I would just like one copy for myself. Does anyone have suggestions for how to proceed with turning blog posts into a book? I imagine there are websites that specialize in such things but I have not researched it yet.
My post is not meant to be a swan song for the blog. I certainly plan to continue writing and I hope people continue to visit the site, comment on the articles and interact with me on Twitter. Be aware that the coming weeks may be a bit slow as I will be moving across the country, starting a new job and finding a place to live.
I ask for patience.
And I also ask for feedback - not only from readers of the site but also other bloggers. Where do you think I should take The Id DM? I believe many of us write posts for our respective sites as a hobby and side venture while hoping our work is recognized in some fashion to make it all worthwhile. And others are definitely striving to establish a foothold into the industry. The time I spend writing and preparing articles is time I’m not engaged in other leisure activities, and that may be a trade-off I’m not willing to make as much in the coming months as my wife and I get settled into a new lifestyle. How are others handling similar transitions?
As always, thank you for reading and for the continued support!