Interview with Jack, Dungeon Master and Mind Behind “of Gods and Gamemasters”
Welcome to another exciting interview at The Geek Post! Today, we have the pleasure of talking to Jack, a seasoned game master with over 40 years of experience, whose lifelong passion for interactive, collaborative storytelling led him to create Of Gods and Gamemasters. A website where you can find a wealth of information as well as products that Jack has designed to make games better. Jack shares his insights on what sets his game mastering style apart, as well as tips for aspiring GMs to create memorable and enjoyable tabletop RPG experiences. From his top favorite RPG systems to the role of technology in enhancing the gaming experience, Jack’s dedication to the art of game mastering and storytelling is evident. Dive into this fascinating conversation to learn more about Jack’s journey and the world of tabletop RPGs.
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GeekPost: Can you tell us about your background and experience in game mastering, and how it led to creating Of Gods and Gamemasters?
Jack: I started GMing at the same time I started gaming. 1981, KB Toy Store in Louisiana. I saw the Moldvay Red Box Basic Set on the shelf and convinced my dad to buy it so we could ‘play Tolkien’ together. He never ended up playing, but I started Dming right away, and have been doing so ever since. I didn’t start making TTRPG content as an actual profession until 2021? 2022? when I lost my job due to a back injury. Now I’m partially disabled, so I thought I’d make a go at making a living at what I love most and do best: interactive, collaborative storytelling.
GeekPost: You offer services as a paid GM. What do you think sets your game mastering style apart from others?
Jack: Depth. I build deep, interesting worlds, characters, and settings. I bring a wealth of life experience and mythological and folklore knowledge to the table and have experience with a truly staggering number of games, settings, worlds, and genres. All this cross-pollinates, making the game at my table more enjoyable and interesting. I also make sure to tune the experience to the specific players and the characters they have chosen to portray, even if it’s a pre-made module or setting. The players vote for content with what they put on their sheets, even if it doesn’t come up in session 0. If someone spends time and effort making sure they have a high Persuasion modifier, they want social encounters. If they min-max a bad-ass tank with a cool combat trick…they should get to use it. Let the players and their characters shine, even while challenging them.
GeekPost: What are your top three tips for aspiring game masters to create a memorable and enjoyable tabletop RPG experience?
Jack: Enjoy yourself. World build instead of session prep, because the better you know your world the easier improv is. Listen to your players and know your table. Each group enjoys different things, and it isn’t about you, or your NPCs or your ‘story’. It’s the story you tell together at the table, about the PCs as the protagonists.
GeekPost: What is your most memorable moment at the gaming table, as a GM and as a player?
Jack: I have so many over 40 years, but … I still remember my fighter, Travis Morgan (I was a big Warlord comics fan) being killed by giant frogs at the moat house in the Village of Hommlet.
GeekPost: How do you keep up with the ever-evolving world of tabletop RPGs and game mastering? What are your favorite tabletop RPG systems?
Jack: I just read and play a lot. I try to keep up the best I can. My big favorites are GURPS, Mutants and Masterminds, Cypher, and Chronicles of Darkness, but I also really like Pathfinder 1 and 2, DnD 3.5 and 5, FATE, and Genesys. I make content for all of those, on my website.
Jack has designed many products for many systems. Along with finding them on the Of Gods and Gamemasters website you can find them on DriveThru RPG as well. Interview continues below the photos.
GeekPost: How have your experiences as a game master shaped your perspective on storytelling and world-building?
Jack: That’s a complicated question. I guess what I’ve learned the most clearly is that a deeply developed world and believable NPCs and villains mean you don’t need to prepare sessions. Instead, you build the situations that pertain before the PCs arrive and figure out how things will go if they aren’t involved…then sit back and see what they do. Let them do whatever they want, as long as they respect the setting and feel you’ve all agreed on. Session 0 is critical, and was, long before we called it that.
GeekPost: What role does technology play in your game mastering process, and how does it enhance the overall experience for players?
Jack: I must use cameras, mics, the internet. I use my laptop and various programs like Hero Lab to keep track of Initiative, PC and monster hit points, things like that. Face to face play will always be my favorite, but I also love the ability to play with people all over the world. I’ll use a VTT like Owlbear or roll20 if I must, but when the game allows, I prefer theater of the mind. Tech keeping track of the fiddly bits can speed things up and enhance play for everyone, and sometimes the ability to just flash an image to go with a description is great.
GeekPost: How do you handle difficult players or conflicts at the gaming table, and do you have any advice for other game masters facing similar situations?
Jack: Calm, direct, personal discussion. A lot of problems can be avoided with good session zero talks about expectations. But if you have real issues with somebody, use a three-strike rule, and make sure they know it ahead of time. If they make the game less fun for everyone, they get two warnings then they are gone. It’s hard, but you must be firm. Mostly I haven’t had a problem; I have been blessed with great players.
GeekPost: Do you consider yourself a geek? What does that mean to you?
Jack: Absolutely. I’m a fantasy/sci fi/gaming geek, a mythology and folklore geek, a history geek. I’m also a nerd and a dork…I love all those things and philosophy, too, and I get really excited about them.