Inside the DM’s Screen: Jerrie Shockmo
“Getting Into Character”
Writer’s/Editor’s Note: The following is a paraphrased transcript from an interview by FGC and Jerrie. Intention and meaning has been verified by the interviewee, though specific wording decisions are the actions of the writer.
FGC: So tell us a little bit about yourself, gaming, life, etc?
JS: I actually started with watching youtubes and various uploaders, Noah Antwiler and all. I was introduced to a number of rulesets that weren’t surrounding the usual D&D, Pathfinder and Savage Worlds. I’ve been DMing for few years but feel much more comfortable in the player’s chair than behind the screen. It’s easy enough to interact with a world rather than creating it and being responsible for keeping track of the interactions and all, which is part of what my class went over.
It’s funny, I actually had a boyfriend in high school that was big into TTRPGs, but based on the general connotations of the time, it wasn’t something he shared with me.
“For anyone who is a performer, no matter the type, D&D is suited to us. I was excited! Do other actors know about this? It’s an improv class I don’t have to pay for!”
FGC: In your experience what are the types of players that you’ll run into?
JS: I actually think there are four types of players, the obvious Roll/Role players, Moderates and DMs/GMs.
FGC: So GMs are their own type of people?
JS: They are. A DM’s personality is vastly different from the others, just based on the requirements needed to be a DM. Each group of people does bring something to the game, but you should always want to keep a balance, and not have things drift one way or the other too far: Fun should be had by all.
FGC: How do you make sure this happens?
JS: Given how quickly and eagerly TTRPGs have made the jump to digital and online platforms, we are so hyper-focused on the logistics: When are w`e running? What time zone? What are we using to play? Is it going to be text or voice? That we never understand the other’s play styles.
This focus on the tangible masques the underlying problem that can occur between “When and how” and “What is the party like,” sure, it’s great that you’re using X program at 7pm eastern on Fridays, but as a player, if you GM a certain way (or vice versa), you’ll be asking the same questions to a new player a month from now, and maybe another player two months from now. Questions about playstyle should be the second set of questions to come out of your mouth as a player, or the second set of parameters you give out as a DM.
FGC: Onto the meat of the course, can you give me a TL;DR:?
JS: People will generally have a type of character, no matter the class, that they gravitate to, based on where they are in their lives. This may be the edgelord, the entitled princess or the lovable scoundrel. These are called your “close,” as it’s a “close distance” from your personality to the character’s.
Conversely, a “stretch” stretches out your abilities to encompass characters that are vastly different from yours. While you may want to play a brooding rogue, a noble paladin might be your stretch.
For DMs, this could mean that NPCs of opposing sexes could all end up sounding the same, and “flat,” as being a male acting as a female may be your “stretch”.
FGC: Surely though, it’s not as easy as that, is it?
JS: When you RP, you are in a DM’s world. If the GM says there’s a table in front of you, your character will “walk around it,” they may “topple it over to use it as cover,” they may “pull a chair from another table, turn it around, sit down on it, and lean forward on the back of the chair to deliver a threat behind a smile”…We accept for this time this imagined table is real, so if we are willing to deal with this imagined table… why is it so hard for us to speak in character. We are accepting the created reality, but often players will still live and react in this reality, in the third person form. Seems silly to only buy in halfway when you think of it like that, right?
…why limit these things to only inanimate objects?
It’s much more important for a DM to overcome their stretches, and turn them into closes, as this makes a more vibrant world.
Also, if you “mess up,” or are awkward, I guarantee you that your players will consider that character more memorable, and will love the effort being put in, rather than not trying as you won’t be “perfect” at it.
For players, if you hate your character, it may come down to mechanics, but if that’s not necessarily the problem, it may be that your character is currently a stretch for you. Keep at it!
“It is silly, we’re all adults (or something), and we’ve all agreed to play pretend with each other!”
FGC: So let’s take a look at the stretch, how would you go about fixing your stretch?
JS: I think I might struggle RPing a “damaged person,” and I think if you had to throw out anything you might find in an “Intro to Acting” book, I’d say to avoid the method acting method—you don’t want to go down a rabbit hole that you can’t come out of.
FGC: But how do I do these things without pissing off the other players or the GM? What about hiding behind the “tried-and-true”, “But that’s what my character would do?”
JS: The latter comes down to a session zero discussion. I don’t care if you’re playing some Chaotic Evil SOB, but you have to have a reason why you’re sticking with the party. Period. End of Sentence. Etc.
The first part of your question, oh boy! I guess the word would be conscientiousness. It’s harder to do online, but if I was in an in-person game, I’d always be looking around at the expressions and reactions of my fellow players, or (worst case scenario) give them some sort of “safe word” to know if I’m going too far. D&D should be almost a split between the DM’s world and cooperative storytelling.
A GM may say “Are you all going to rest for the night?” but a player can say what exactly they’re doing, and how they’re going to interact with the others.
In Toon RPG, there is a mechanic that means “Fall down,” this means you black out for 3 mins. If you do this, your stuff scatters. Your party CAN pick crap up, and they don’t have to give it back.
Ineptitude is also a good way to do things, but you should do it a bit tongue in cheek, maybe a Dick Dastardly, but do it in a “Bad Guys Who Need a New Day Job.” Just by their actions, the bad guy COULD help things out. But note, not everyone can do this. If a devil was constantly horrible, he wouldn’t make any deals!
FGC: So players are taken care of, what about DMs? When I’ve got a Barovia or Cheliax/Numeria, or Vampire: The Masquerade, how do I inject a bit of whimsy into it?
JS: You need to have the confidence that things may work out, even if you have a scintilla of “Hey, this could work and be kind of cool,” it will probably turn out cool! Setting expectations in the first place can help immensely. This goes back to trying things out. Sometimes you will have sessions that won’t go well, this happens no matter what kind of campaign you run.
FGC: What do you think of the current state of the major systems…as a semi-layperson, or coming to it from an acting background?
JS: I think some of the more popular rulesets still have a sort of machismo edge to it, which is absolutely fine, given the target audiences from the beginning. Unfortunately, this has a bit of a bleed effect onto the general status of campaigns and modules—“The World is Going to End,” “The Gods are Angry,” “Squish Squish, Stabby Stab Stab.”
These are fine, but sometimes they aren’t just someone’s cup of tea. You need to be aware of this.
FGC: And more specifically…?
JS: Fey, Demons, devils and mildly loony infernal and celestial mobs are also a great springboard into the odd and whimsical. Note, also, you don’t have to have some sort of macabre funhouse: if you’re going through wave after wave of undead locales, breaking it up with a trip to the Feywild, or a 180-degree deviation from the norm also works!
FGC: Any Final Words?
JS: “Once you have a character, and you know who they are. Commit fully and honestly. This is your right as a player. The DM controls the world, but you control this speck of sands in this beach. Fight for this right…to party!”
A couple of rules I have:
Never break your party’s trust
Always say “Yes” if you can’t wholeheartedly say yes, there should be a “Yes, but…”
Only in certain moral situations, could you say no.
FGC: So whenever I’ve had an interview, I always ask the interviewee what’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever experienced related to the subject matter.
“The importance of wearing pantaloons.”
> Player, was in a group > Constantly show up late, back in the day of IRL focused RPG > Party meets at the store > Hour passes > Another Hour > Call the Player: “I’m on my way, yeah yeah yeah.” > Us: “We gotta get rid him” > Another 40 minutes pass. > Us: “Where the hell are you? You answered the Home number?” > Player: “Well I got halfway there, and I realized I need to wear pants…”
FGC: That’s either dedication to the game, or some GOOD DRUGS!
JS: Isn’t it though?
FGC: So where is Jerrie going now?
JS: I’d like to try a high-magic Westmarches in 5e… but remember. I like Whimsy and the Feywild. Watch out!
She then had a very toothy grin and faded like the Cheshire Cat.
Jerrie can be found on Twitch at Jerrie_Dnd.