DM Interview – Stephen of The Grinning Frog

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Stephen Hart

Think of the session as more of a jazz session than classical piece of music – improvisation is a good thing.

What’s your name? Who are you?


My name is Stephen, I’m the Chief Scribe @thegrinningfrog and write a variety of system free and D&D 5e publications. (Website coming very soon). In my day job I am a corporate trainer with fifteen years experience.

I recently wrote about how my first session as a DM was a total disaster. How did your first session as a DM go? What system were you running?


Well, I’ve been gaming since 1981 so I have to cast my mind back a bit. Those early sessions were very rudimentary with pretty much every room having isolated creatures that just needed a good whacking! We were playing basic D&D and then moved onto Expert and Advanced. If we fast forward to modern times, then 2009 saw me introduce my two boys to D&D with 4th edition which is an edition we are still playing in the house – because unlike a lot of gamers, we really love it!

Tell us about how you game these days. How many games do you run? Do you mostly play online or in person?


I run two ongoing campaigns, both D&D – one is the above campaign with my sons (The Hamish Campaign) which is now in its tenth year and another with good friends which has been running for 3 years (The Shadowmoon Campaign). Both campaigns are played in person. The newest campaign is run weekly, although we’ve sadly had a two month gap due to two of the players suffering bereavements. The home campaign runs approximately monthly.

What do you think is the biggest hurdle DMs face?


Twofold to be honest – first getting a group of people to commit and maintain a regular gaming schedule and secondly, confidence in their own creativity and delivery of a game session. At least that’s the vibe I get from the community on Twitter, Reddit and conventions.

If you could give advice to yourself before you ran your first game, what would it be?


Go with what the players say. The ‘script’ is only a guide. It’s good to free flow. Think of the session as more of a jazz session than classical piece of music – improvisation is a good thing.

Who are three DMs, online or in person, that you admire? Why?


I must confess I don’t watch Twitch or any of the streaming games. All the gaming I do in person I am the DM, so this is hard to answer! I have heard Chris Perkins and the old D&D podcast and he seems pretty good. I like his energy and sense of fun.

What custom creation of your own are you most proud of?


I’ve produced over 25 publications for sale and some of them are ranked for medals on DMs Guild and DriveThruRPG but ironically, the one I simply like the most hasn’t sold well – it’s a collection of jungle creatures for 5e and I just really like how that work came together. It’s a bit of a love letter to my younger self combining a deep affection for a series of books I read as a child and also my abiding love for D&D.

Quick, in one sentence, invent a magic item. No stats necessary.


Just one? Lol, okay – I like practical items that would be used in the world so how about:

Shadow Lantern – A lantern which both shines regular visible light and light on a different wavelength and which illuminates all undead spirits within range of the lantern. (A much desired item by gravediggers and owners!)

Naming just one tool, what’s the most valuable tool you use to help you prepare for your campaign?


Simple – my A5 notebook. You can’t go far wrong with a good notebook!

More about Stephen
You can follow Stephen on Twitter @thegrinningfrog and at his website, The Grinning Frog
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