Tonight we got back into the 2e game we started a few weeks ago, but there was a catch. Before we began play, the more experienced player was wondering if we could go back to 3rd edition/Pathfinder. My daughter, a newer player, was all for staying in 2nd edition. She says it is easier. I was a bit shocked as I thought for sure that 2e would reign supreme at our table for the foreseeable future. So we discussed it and decided that Pathfinder would return as the default system. (BTW my daughter still prefers 2e, but says Pathfinder is easier to play than 4e, but not easier to learn.)
Everyone rolled up new characters and we pretty much put them in the same place of the campaign as the 2e characters. There were a few tweaks and on the fly changes made on my part, but it went well. This game was a bit rockier than the last, due in part to external interference, but was over all a fun night.
After we were done playing for the night, the more experienced player and I sat on the porch discussing the possibility of getting another regular group together and the people we could try to recruit. This led into a discussion about DMing and how I'd like to find someone to take over or at least share the responsibility with me so that I could run the occasional PC. This led to a discussion on DMing styles and here is where I managed to learn a thing or two about myself.
In our discussion we were talking about guys we know that can/do DM and what kind of DMs they are. DM "x" is big on dragons and finds a way to work them in every chance he gets. On the other hand DM "a" is really into vampires and the whole gothic Ravenloft type of game. DM "y" is all about the in town adventures and DM "b" always seemed to run things with a Forgotten Realms feel. These guys are consistent. They use the same basic monsters, the same settings and the same types of adventures.
"But how do I DM?"
Through self reflection and discussion I came to understand that I'm either very versatile, or I suck as a DM. My player said that while I like my zombies and mimics, I really do like 'em, I tend to throw every kind of creature into a game. It's almost a monsters of the week type of thing.
I'm more of the type that just wants to see how much crazy shit I can throw at a party. 4 or 5 Puzzles, a couple of traps, a living wall, a ghost, a zombie horde, a mind flayer, a flesh golem, a gelatinous cube, some green slime, a couple of mimics, a duregar patrol, an Ogre Mage and maybe even a kobold shaman to shake things up. That's just to get everyone's attention.
It is kind of weird that I throw so much and such a variety at a party since I never try to go for the TPK. If anything I'm too lenient on players and too generous with the loot. I sometimes, as I did tonight, have the monsters come in conflict with each other, with the PCs just being caught in the middle. To me that seems natural. Especially in a dungeon environment.
For example, the group was avoiding some "Romero" zombies when they locked themselves in a room they had found. They hear some talking outside and decide to check it out. A duregar patrol shows up to give them grief and makes so much noise that they draw the attention and are over run by the horde of zombies. The PCs barely managed to lock themselves back in the secure room and had to tough it out for 3 days before it was ok to venture out. Lucky for them they had just stocked up on provisions.
At some point we all use dragons and even the type of dragons we use says a lot about us. Most guys seem to like red dragons, others tend to include gold, silver and white. I've known guys who only use undead dragons. Me I've always pretty much stuck with green, black and blue. Black is my personal favorite, though I'm really fond of the blues too. If I use dragons those are generally the ones that show up. I'm also not as strict with their alignments. I've had black and green dragons that helped a party and gold dragons that were greedy and conniving.
I tend to be kind of gray with alignment for PCs too. While many other DMs are very strict about what a LG Paladin can do. Me, I'm open to discussion on the matter.
Something else I came to realize during our discussion was that I tend to run epic, almost cosmic campaigns. "The Five Towers" was a dimension hopping trip through various campaign settings and worlds. "The Temple of the Mad Elf", leads into a save the world before it is destroyed campaign. "The Keys to Oblivion", "The City Well" (aka "The Well of Doom"), and "The Town of Twilight" were all epic campaigns with potentially world shattering results. Even my smaller adventures like "Where's all the Beer" and "The Green Isle" were written to potentially lead to grander campaigns.
While I have run my share of small, one off adventures, I just tend to think big when it comes to my adventures. I think in terms of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars when I plan them out. Perhaps it comes from reading too many summer comic book events and watching too many movies.
I also realized that I'm not a descriptive DM. I describe what you need to know, but not a lot of the smaller details, unless you ask. I need to work on that.
I also refuse to speak in voices and hate playing in groups that do that. I don't mind talking for a character (my character says..., he says... or I tell them...) but the whole dinner theater thing just isn't for me. I can't do it and I just don't like it.
One of the more positive things I came to realize is my best setting to date is Eberron. I've run most of the D&D worlds (Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft) and I can run them, but so far I've done my best stuff in Eberron. I connect with that setting for some reason. I get the whole pulp, pseudo-tech, steam punk feel of it. Just like my friend told me, in Eberron I tend to run more exciting, Indiana Jones style adventures. Sure they may still be epic in scope, but looking at the individual adventures, they tend to be more exciting and fast paced. All of the DMs we know seem to have their "specialty" settings and Eberron appears to be mine.
Now that we are going back to Pathfinder, though I have everyone in agreement that we'll revisit 2e again soon, I think I can get that same feel out of Golarion. I'm going to catch up on my Golarion reading over the next week and hopefully, find that same pulpy groove. I'm thinking about running the Serpent's Skull AP or at the very least borrowing heavily from it because of its Indiana Jones feel I think it might kick-start my creative motor.
Next week we're planning to play again with a bigger group. I'll try to share more then.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My friend also mentioned how he would like to try out more of my games. If we get enough players he'd really like to get into some more Call of Cthulhu, d20 Modern, Hollow Earth Expedition, and Serenity. I'm really hoping I can fit some All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Mutant Epoch and a supers game in there too. Of course if that happens I'll be posting something about it.