Nice Job, DM! Feat. James Addink

Welcome back to Nice Job, DM! where we interview cool DMs with cool day jobs. 
Every DM has the opportunity to work on worldbuilding within their campaigns, but today we're talking to James Addink, who gets to build worlds for the camera! He is a set designer and has worked on great productions like Star Trek: Picard and Lucifer.
Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is James Addink, I'm a husband, father, set designer, and DM.

What is your day job?

I'm a set designer in Film and Television. So I get to design the worlds that the actors play in.

How did you get into that line of work?

When I was in college, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to take a set design course with him.  I had a free elective, and thought it might be fun.  It turned out to not only be fun, but also life a very real way.  I expanded on my enjoyment of it, moved to Los Angeles, and began networking with people working in the art department, eventually landing my first job. 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I'd have to say that my favorite part of my job is how non-standard it is.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I've designed more bathrooms, hotel rooms, and bedrooms than I'd like to admit, but I also get to design starships, transporter rooms, and Hell.  I never know exactly what I might get to design next, because I never know what the writers are going to request.

What advice would you give to people who are interested in your job?

Don't.  And I'm only half serious about that.  If you're not up for working 10-12 hours a day, 5-7 days a week, and then having to look for a job every 3-6 months; if you're interested in trying to maintain a semblance of a family life or want any kind of paid vacation; if there's anything else you're possibly interested in doing, don't pursue a career in the film industry.  It's a VERY exciting job for a while, but the burnout is huge.  And there are many people that feel trapped in this career path because the skills aren't often transferable to non-film industry careers.  That being said, if this is the career you're passionate about, I'd recommend you start by going to the Art Director's Guild website (, and if you feel qualified, applying to their Apprentice program.  It's also not a terrible idea to go through their member list and reach out to some of the art directors to introduce yourself.  Maybe offer to buy them coffee and ask to pick their brains.  Get in conversations with art directors and network.  This industry is all about networking and being known.  It's really the primary way we find our next job.  And make sure you know how to draft.  We're world builders, architects, draftsmen and draftswomen.  Knowing architecture and its terminology is paramount.

When and why did you start DMing, and for what systems?

I ran my first game for a Pathfinder Society group in Georgia in 2015.  I'd been playing for a while and wanted to cut my teeth at running the games, since it was low commitment, low effort.  I knew the system, and figured with pregenerated adventures, I wouldn't could cut my teeth without having to take on quite as much of the onus of running a home brew game or campaign.  Since then, I've run Pathfinder 1E & 2E campaigns, Starfinder games,  D&D, and I'm currently running an Eclipse Phase campaign.

How often do you DM?

I run one or two games each month.

What is your favorite part of DMing?

My favorite part of DMing is getting to explore worlds with my players.  I love it when players come up with unexpected solutions to complex or mundane problems; when they go off script and make me work for it.  It stretches my chops as a DM.

Can you tell us your best memory from the table?

My low level players had to get into an old castle, guarded by various mooks.  In order to do so, the game figured they'd likely go in the front door.  Not my players.  They scaled the walls...successfully...without anyone noticing.  I still don't know how the dice rolled their way on those rolls.  Once they'd gained the parapet, our rogue snuck over to one of the ballistas, and managed to successfully fire a sneak attack at one of the enemies.  There were such a huge number of rolls that should have failed that didn't, that it made the scene one of our favorites; and we still occasionally recall it.

Do any skills you use for your day job help you when you DM?

As a set designer, my first step is often research and envisioning how the set serves the story.  How does the space fit the actors, fit the scene, and fit the location?  In a similar way, I, as a DM need to envision the world my players are entering.  What does it look like, what does it smell like, how might my players interact with that world, that location?

What advice or house rules would you share with new DMs?

Advice: Let the players explore.  You're all working together to explore a story, so don't force the situation to tell your story.  Everyone will enjoy the game more if they get to explore the story they want to explore.  And it'll challenge you as a DM to get better at storytelling if you allow the players to challenge your best laid plans!

My favorite house rules:  Let the players have a few sessions to tweak their characters in any way they'd like (within the character creation rules)  They're still trying to figure their character out, and things might not work the way they want them to, or they might find a way of having their characters better fit into the world you've created.  Additionally, I typically allow one full round for the PCs to attempt to heal a dying/dead character.  Players have often put a lot of thought into their character, so there should be a chance for their salvation.  However, the threat of character death should also remain a possibility.  Since all action technically happens at the same time, I make an allowance for another PC to be able to save a recently killed character.

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