I'm not the most experienced DM out there. I've actually run a relatively small number of games in my time. The lessons I've learned in that time are innumerable. For as many tips and tricks I've picked up through my experience, I've learned twice that number from the DM's I've been lucky enough to play with. Though they all have their particular strengths, there is one in particular I want to talk about today. It's through his passion and incredible knowledge of the games we've played that I've become a better player and a much better DM.
From our first games, playing D&D 4th Edition, it was apparent that he had a unique talent for tabletop games. We moved through a few different games; Star Wars, Marvel, Gamma World, and D&D 3.5 before we eventually settled into Pathfinder. It was a perfect game for our playstyle. It was broad enough to provide numerous character options, and detailed enough to accommodate our random harebrained schemes. With Pathfinder, Mike's talents for tabletop really came out.
From the party that lost more members to it's own Barbarian than any enemy, to our epic aquatic campaign, Mike was a ready source of information. He was a really helpful DM, often building our characters and helping suggest feats and skills for level advancement. The enemies he brought us up against were devious and interesting (not to mention unusually skilled with mind affecting abilities).
It wasn't until very recently that I realized how good a DM Mike really was. He recently moved out of the area, which made us sad. We still play online a bit; we're figuring out the intricacies of Roll20 for the purposes of continuing our campaigns. On our end, we've started a new group recently with me as the DM. I was admittedly trepidatious about taking on a large adventure path with a totally new group. But once I started talking to our players about their characters and preparing the encounters and NPC's for the game, it seemed to come a little easier than I'd remembered it.
I've become a far better DM, not just through experience, but through years of exposure to Mike's expertise. I owe a lot of my current skills to his example. It speaks volumes to his credit that we could learn so much without any active tutelage on his part. Where once I stumbled on rule questions, I couldn't accurately calculate my hit points, I made terrible equipment decisions. Now I am able to move fluidly through encounters, resolve multiple spell effects, and provide a sound character advice to other players. I don't deny that my own practical experience has improved my abilities as well, but Mike has subconsciously accelerated my understanding of Pathfinder and other tabletop games.
Thanks Mike. You're a fantastic friend and an irreplaceable DM.