I am a life-long, full-time entrepreneur, a part-time Ph.D. student of Computer Science, and a single dad to two great kids. Awarded a Ph.D. fellowship from UT Arlington in 2016, I research the field of "Gaming with a Purpose" while incorporating my findings into Dungeons & Dragons games that I host. I am also a university professor, a research consultant, and a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. When I was little, I was the weird kid who went to my school library to read the encyclopedia for fun. Most other books bored me because they were too linear. My school’s encyclopedia, however, was non-linear and interactive. I could instantly move from one topic to the next without feeling bored. I always got bored reading regular books because they were too linear, unlike the encyclopedia. As a kid in the 80s with undiagnosed ADHD, I wasn’t a linear thinker. When I was about eight years old, my mother tried to encourage me to read fiction by introducing me to Choose Your Own Adventure books. This series of books allowed me to read the same book over again without getting bored. The adventures in these books were designed to be short, nonlinear, and interactive. This was my first experience with interactive media that shaped my love for Tabletop Roleplaying Games like Dungeons & Dragons. After reading many, many Choose Your Own Adventure books, I was introduced to the world of text-based adventure games that I could play on my home computer. It was 1985, I was 9 years old, and I had not yet been introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. However, my parents bought me a TI-99/4a, a home computer that I could call my very own. I hooked it up to a spare television set and I started creating my own role-playing game worlds after teaching myself to use the BASIC programming language. There was one adventure game called “The Hermit” that I found in a copy of Compute! Magazine. I remember painstakingly typing it into my computer, one keystroke at a time. Often, I would find other games that I could modify and call my own. Other times, I forced myself to write games from scratch. Over the years, as technology evolved, I became interested in creating content for internet-based Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), which were the predecessors of the modern MMO. By this time, I still hadn’t been introduced to the concept of tabletop roleplaying yet, but I had nonetheless been adept at generating maps, puzzles, and narratives for interactive computer games I created. The first tabletop roleplaying game I ever played was the already out of print Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game by FASA. It was 1993, I was 17, and I had just joined a group of roleplayers that had been playing Dungeons & Dragons, along with a plethora of other TTRPGs since the late 1970s. This group became my source for some of the oldest and closest friendships of my life. Every week, we visited what became an openly shared office space that we affectionately called, The Office. For years, office space was rented for the exclusive purpose of us having a neutral place to play anytime any of us wanted. To this day, this group has become a steadfast legacy of the late high school math teacher, JJ Garza, who always ensured the gaming community he founded and cultivated had a place to play, ever since he started an after-school D&D club for some of his favorite students in 1977. Since learning about D&D and other TTRPGs during my senior year of high school in 1993, I have been playing them ever since. For me, games like D&D are more than just collaborative stories. They are an opportunity to deeply connect with friends in much the same way lifelong bonds are forged in real life. Using a game’s rules and structure, we will develop a and share story that is uniquely our own. By means of roleplaying, we experience shared glories during our successes and shared trauma through our failures. And with a little luck, the fortunes that we earn are ones of life-long friendships, and the empires that we build are with ones whom we soon come to call family. Website: https://www.markrandall.games
I'm a huge fan of roleplaying game sessions. I enjoy voice-acting the NPCs. I tend to be quick on improvisation, able to handle anything my players can imagine. If you could imagine if Robin Williams ever hosted a D&D game, that's the kind of DM I would draw my inspiration from. I don't let rules get in the way of having a good time, and will improvise house rules in order to progress the story. My new players won't be overwhelmed with game mechanics but will have plenty of opportunities to learn as they go. I do everything I can to make sure my players have an entertaining and memorable experience. Depending on the group that I'm with, I prioritize fun and the "Rule of Cool" while figuring out and adapting to everyone's preferred playstyle, twisting and changing a lot of the rules to make things as fun for everyone as possible. That said, I tend to use a lot of homebrew rules and content. Most of my sessions are original adventures. If I find a module that I like, I may simply use it as an inspirational starting point, allowing my players to make their adventures completely their own, in favor of a more improvised sandbox environment. I'm not a super huge fan of intensive tactical combat. If we are having a lot of fun roleplaying, and nobody in the group is actively seeking combat, we may skip combat during our session altogether. However, when we do conduct tactical combat, I might sometimes use Foundry VTT or Owlbear Rodeo for larger complicated encounters, but try to stick to Theater of the Mind whenever possible. I also prefer to use Google Meet face-to-face interaction during the game and make use of Discord for general communication and in-game preparation. Theater of the Mind is my thing! Let's use our imagination!
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