Nice Job, DM! Feat. Jon Ciccolini

We are honored to have with us today the interview responses from the very talented DM of "Faster, Purple Worm, Kill! Kill!"

Give us just a moment, we need to politely excuse ourselves, shut the door behind us, and squeal with an embarrassing level of delight.

Jon Ciccolini stands in front of some Beadle & Grimm's products

Ahem. Hello! Who are you?

I’m Jon Ciccolini, part-owner of Beadle & Grimm’s and I’ve been trying to improve my DMing since I first picked up the rulebooks for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s.

As part-owner, can you tell us how Beadle & Grimm's came to be?

My friends and I pitched a “Platinum Edition” concept to Wizards of the Coast, including actually producing a real demo box, shortly after their Stream of Many Eyes in 2018.

The pitch was to create a product that helped DMs that had very little time, but some discretionary income, with preparation for an elevated table experience. Making the DM’s job easier is a north star for us.

What’s been your favorite part of being with Beadle & Grimm's?

Working with writers, illustrators, cartographers, and designers and watching our collaborative concepts come to life. I have the privilege to work with such incredibly talented artists. Also, DMing on Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill! was an absolute blast.

What advice would you give to people who are interested in starting their own company?

Create something that fuels you creatively. Always keep quality as your top priority. Be patient. I contributed to Beadle & Grimm’s as a side gig for years, working late nights and weekends, before we made enough money for me to quit my full-time day job. It takes time, but if you focus on quality, and what you love, good things will happen.

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

I started DMing as soon as my older brother introduced me to Advanced D&D in grade school. I was awful, and made every beginning DM mistake, and despite that, we couldn’t get enough of RPGs. The full package of collaborative storytelling, art that fired the imagination, escapism, and tactical gameplay kept me hooked throughout high school and then again when I started playing again in my mid-20s. I primarily ran D&D, but also mixed in a game called Villains & Vigilantes, which was a superhero game.

How often do you DM now?

Not nearly as often as I would like. I have several ongoing games, with some meeting more regularly than others, but I’d say about 4x month. Maybe when my daughter gets old enough to appreciate RPGs that will increase.

What is your favorite part of DMing?

The reactions of players after a surprising or well thought out story beat. I love generous players - players that invest in the story and have big, emotional reactions to events/moments that collaboratively happen. I try to be that kind of player when I’m not DMing. Also, I was an actor for much of my life, so I love roleplaying a wide variety of NPCs and monsters.

Can you tell us your best memory from the table? 

There are too many, but I can say the best memories always happen when there’s a confluence of a strong story, players committed to their characters and the stakes of the story, and a collaboratively built freedom to be yourself and express at the table. 

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

You bet. I’m constantly reading adventures from the best in the business as part of my work. Just like anything in life, if you want to be good at something spend as much time as you can studying the masters.

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

DM with a “Yes, and…” mentality, meaning avoid the DM as antagonist role and embrace the role of creating story opportunities for your players to have fun and shine. This doesn’t mean you eliminate the prospect of danger or failure - the stakes should be real and the players should feel like their actions have consequences - but the players should feel like they’re trying to prevail against the in-story challenges, not the DM. Keep the story moving - don’t get too bogged down in mundane details (encumbrance anyone?) or unnecessary skill checks (“make a Perception check to see if you spot the thing that's right there.”). Be kind to yourself. You’ll make mistakes, and y’know what? Everyone will still have a great time if you make it fun.

You can find Jon on Twitter at @CiccoliniJonBG. If you're interested in FPWK!K!, they'll be playing live at Gen Con in August. They'll also be featured on the new Dungeons & Dragons streaming channel.
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