Over the years I’ve told you guys a lot about my games. You’ve heard about my ongoing megadungeon. My many Exalted exploits. My journeys to the depths of the Underdark, the haunted halls of Ravenloft, and the odoriferous reaches of the local suite of game cons. But today, I’d like to tell you about a heretofore unexplored aspect of my gaming life. I’d like to tell you about my dog.

“The Doggonian Empire demands popcorn. Comply, or we will open fire on your starship.”

For the past three years, I’ve been the proud parent of a greyhound. He’s a tall boy. His name is Pratchett, and he gets separation anxiety. As such, I’ve got to make a devil’s bargain every time folks come over to game. Either he’s in the room with us, which means that his weird giraffe neck is in reach of the gamer snacks, or he’s sequestered in another room, which means that my guests are treated to a serenade of abject doggy despair. You picks your poison and you makes your choice.

From what I’ve seen online, I’m far from the only person with a furry co-GM. There’s an entire subreddit dedicated to cats playing D&D, and I’ll admit to stacking dice on my roommate’s miniature displacer beast more than once. It always seemed like a good compromise to me. The cat gets to be on the table; I get someplace to put my dice. It’s super cute until he knocks all my favorite platonic solids off the board in retaliation, and I don’t think I have to tell you what happens next.

Pets are interesting not merely because they’re cute, but because they represent the intrusion of the outside world. When I sit down to write the weekly Handbook of Heroes blogs, I’m usually thinking about game design concepts. My head is full of stuff like player agency, and well-balanced encounters, and interpersonal dynamics. It’s easy to forget that these games we play are more than mental. They take place in a material world. There are flesh and blood gamers at the table, which means there are flesh and blood concerns. Do you have adequate seating? Is the heater working? Does your mom’s basement smell like feet and thirty years of Lucky Strikes? Even if you’re chucking virtual dice on Roll20, you’re still dealing with the out-of-game considerations. Connection speeds, time zone troubles, and bio break frequency are all at issue. These are not the sorts of things we think of first when we decide to tell an epic story of heroic adventure, but they are vital for success.

What I’m saying is that it pays to plan for the practical. That may come in the form of adequate seating, a properly air-conditioned rec room, or suitable defenses against a freaky tall dog with a taste for your buddy’s Cheezos. When it comes to designing a killer gaming experience, take a minute to make sure you’re providing a good experience period. Happy humans make happy gamers, which means that the practical concerns of hosting a game night are worthy of your attention.

So how about it, gang? Have you ever had a session overshadowed by IRL problems? Did the pets invade? Did the power go out? Did you realize to your horror that no one had brought dice? Let’s hear about your run-ins with the mundane and the material down in the comments!


REQUEST A SKETCH! So you know how we’ve got a sketch feed on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon? By default it’s full of Laurel’s warm up sketches, illustrations not posted elsewhere, design concepts for current and new characters, and the occasional pin-up shot. But inspiration is hard sometimes. That’s why we love it when patrons come to us with requests. So hit us up on the other side of the Patreon wall and tell us what you want to see!