Nice Job, DM! Feat. Sam Ferrell

Today, we're dealing with a whole other type of click clack as we interview Sam Ferrell, who is not only my little brother, he's also a software engineer! Sam has been developing a VTT (virtual tabletop) that can be found at

He wants me remind you that it's still in major development, but I think it's already pretty dang good.

Sam Ferrell

Hi, Sam! Tell us about your day job!

Right now I'm helping electric grid operators meet their energy capacity needs by carefully optimizing the use of thousands of devices like thermostats and water heaters simultaneously. When I'm not working, I'm usually playing games or rock climbing.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Working with smart people to effectively solve our customers' problems.

How did you get into that line of work?

I got into programming because I wanted to create custom versions of the video games I enjoyed playing as a kid. The strategy game Warcraft 3 had a map editor that exposed advanced customization options for people who learned its scripting language. I kept developing more hobbyist things in my free time then realized I could put that new skill to lucrative use.

Smart! Everybody needs money. What advice would you give to future software engineers?

Software is a wide field and goes very deep. Learn a wide breadth of things and go deep on a few things you find especially interesting. Those deep topics tend to define how you're able to market yourself to the industry.

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

Since being introduced to Dungeons & Dragons 5E by my sister a few years ago, I wanted to create compelling worlds that people would be dying to return to every week. Playing a character is great, but shaping a world from the ground up scratches a different itch entirely. So far I've only run games for DND 5E but hope to explore others eventually.

How often do you DM now?

Once every Sunday for about 3-4 hours per session I run Curse of Strahd (5th Edition) for 5 other players. This has been the first time I've DM'd for a big campaign and I'm only about a dozen sessions in. Before that, I've run about half a dozen one shots for D&D 5th Edition. So far it has been great! I really like the open-ended nature of the adventure, the tone of the setting, and how my players have leaned into the gothic horror nature of it all.

What is your favorite part of DMing?

Watching as players become invested in their characters and really feel like they have full agency of their adventure.

Can you tell us your best memory from the table?

One of my favorite memories is when a player was able to placate an aggressive shambling flesh mound by creating an illusion of someone it cherished before it was a monstrous meat mountain. She connected the dots of several story elements provided in the dungeon and put it to good use to resolve an otherwise horribly difficult encounter.

Do any skills you use for software engineering help you when you DM?

I put my skills to use quite literally because I developed my own light-weight virtual tabletop from the ground up to help run my games' encounters. (you can find said VTT at Besides that, collaborating with people with diverse skills and different ways of working is something important in both software and tabletop games.

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

Lean into your players’ intuitions about the world.

Prepare to improvise.

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