Why, what a silly question to ask Mr. Magers, you just read the core rulebook! Done, end of blog. The first RPG or role playing game I learned to play was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) from my friend and his dad in sixth grade, as of writing this 21 years ago, it was simple enough. I quickly became the Dungeon Master (DM) of my friends. I loved the world building that came with it. Not just building the dungeons and filling it with monsters but figuring out why that dungeon is there in the first place. How did those monsters come to occupy the dungeon? How is the village going to react when the player’s characters (PCs) roll up with a wagon full of chained up goblins, pulled by chained goblins? Thinking of scenarios and reacting to the scenarios the PCs come up with are the best parts of being a DM. As I grew more confident in my skill as a DM, I wanted to branch out into different systems.
Wizards of the Coast was releasing D&D 3.5 edition and I wanted to play it. My group of friends were skeptical as D&D was made by TSR who do these coastal wizards think they are! Oh boy did some people not like it. I will admit it was a lot to take in and one member did not like the loss of ThAC0 (to-hit armor class of zero). However, we did find Shadowrun and I loved the sci-fi technology and fantasy magic mix. We started with third edition and moved on to fourth edition shortly after release in 2006. AD&D and 4e Shadowrun were our two games until 2008 when I left for the military. I found a group to play 4e D&D with and loved it. Part of my love was the fact that I was not the DM but a player. I have read a lot of hate for 4e D&D but I loved the tactical combat of it. Prior to playing 4e D&D my group mostly played in “theater of the mind” with this new game and group we played with minis. 4e D&D also brought in technology with a character builder. I played in that group until I was deployed and when I got back the DM had moved states.
For the next ten years I became more of a game collector then player. Game systems I have bought but not really played include Pathfinder, Aces and Eights, 7th Sea, Star Wars, Stars Without Numbers, and 5e D&D. When I found time and enough people I was able to put together a 5e D&D group with me as DM. This would be my first time running a game since, really, high school. I had read over the rules and I was comfortable enough running a game but I was definitely rusty. I mostly just read over the rules about running the game and left all player mechanics for them to figure out. This mostly worked out but where it fell short was combat.
Unlike childhood, we were all adults with either college or work or both to deal with. That is why as the DM I made the choice not to read over all the player stuff. I did not have time to learn how all the classes worked. Another decision I made was to not use premade dungeons or adventures. In high school I was making all the adventures and I saw the premade adventures for those without imagination. I am still not pro-premade adventures but I do see the appeal of them for a Game Master (GM) with not a lot of time on their hands. What does this have to do with combat you are wondering? Well by not using premade adventures and not reading the capabilities of the PCs combat went one of two ways normally. Either combat lasted no more than two rounds or it went on so long most of the time it ended because the bad guys ran away or I fudged some dice hard because I was going to kill everyone. I could not find a middle ground.
I am now in a period of my life where I have the time and the motivation to not only just learn a new game but become confident in it. As I do have an abundance of time I thought I could also share my process with others. The game I have chosen to master is Starfinder by Paizo. Starfinder has everything I love from magic to technology and all the weird in between. The setting and world building is fantastic and allows for all different kinds of campaigns.
To finish this post off I hope you join me on this journey and we can learn a few things.