It is difficult for me to believe that today marks the first birthday of this blog. One year ago, at the tail end of March 2011, I wrote two posts; the first of these was an introduction, and the second was a recap of what I learned from running my first 4E D&D adventure, The Twisted Halls, from the Essentials Red Box. It is now 366 days, 57 posts, and more than 17,000 page views later.
I started The Learning DM mostly for my own benefit; writing is a good way for me to reflect on what works and what doesn’t in my campaign. Another reason to begin the blog was the obligation I felt to the D&D community, which had been incredibly helpful for me as I returned to the game after many years away. Creating a D&D blog felt, on some small level, like a way of paying forward the advice and encouragement that other sites had given to me. A third purpose for this blog comes from a quote from my very first post: “to make my campaign the best it can possibly be.”
As I look back over the past year, how effective has The Learning DM been at meeting these three goals?
First of all, reflection; how much thought and consideration about my campaign has taken place? In this area, success has been a mixed bag. When my campaign was going at full speed, I ran slightly behind in writing my posts. Often this meant the insight I gained upon writing my reflections came a bit late. On the other hand, I learned so much about being a good DM from those first few sessions! I know that the time spent pondering the successes and failures at the gaming table was beneficial in this regard.
What about my second goal, to make a contribution to the community? The blog has more than exceeded my expectations in this area. The Learning DM has grown steadily in audience from month to month. I was able to reach even more people when Mike Shea included me at 4eblogs and dndblogs. I am quite grateful and honored to be included there, alongside many of the blogs that inspired me to begin writing in the first place. The highlight of my contributions to the community are the series of reflections on the adventures from the Essentials line, from the Red Box to the Monster Vault. For someone new to the role of DM, who comes into 4E through the Essentials products, these posts should be very useful. They have been popular and I’ve had lots of good feedback from many new DMs. As far as community payback goes, I’d say the blog has been quite successful.
Moving to the third, and perhaps most important goal, to make my campaign the best it could possibly be. That was a very, very tall order. I do not consider myself a master DM at all; there are many others who could have run the campaign with more skill than me. Could I have done a better job as DM? Absolutely. Is the campaign on the downward slope right now? Sadly, yes. But when I look back at all the D&D games I’ve ever played, the 4E campaign is absolutely my favorite. Playing the game again, with good friends and my own children, has been such a joy. Perhaps it wasn’t the best campaign possible, but it’s been a great experience nonetheless.
Overall, then, I’ve done a fair job of meeting my three goals. I learned from my mistakes and successes by reflecting on what went on at the table. I was able to share that learning with the D&D 4E community. And I’ve enjoyed the greatest campaign of my life! Not too shabby for a year’s worth of work.
As I look forward to the next year of the Learning DM, I expect that there will be some changes. I will be wrapping up our 4E campaign in the next few months, and will likely not start another long-term game until D&D Next arrives. Because of this, the blog will likely not focus on 4E as much during the coming year. I don’t see this as much of a problem, as there will be plenty of new edition discussion to be had.
I plan to continue my monthly features, the Game Night Blog Carnival and D&Development. Since we are playing less D&D, we have more time for board and card games. Writing about these games is great fun, and likely of interest to most readers. D&Development is perhaps more important now than it has been before. With the next edition’s apparent focus on getting back to the basics, looking towards the best of the past seems like a great idea.
In closing, I want to thank you, the readers. I hope that the blog has been useful for you this past year, and will continue to be in the future. Dungeons & Dragons is a fantastic game, and I am glad to be a part of the great community that enjoys throwing a few dice, moving some miniatures on a map, and most importantly, telling great stories together with friends.