Your first few games for Dungeons & Dragons can be difficult, and twice if you choose to complete the role of Dungeon Master.
While at the table, the DM will need to fulfill many positions including coach, referee and narrator. The following three tips will reduce your use of the game and ensure that you and your players have an unforgettable experience of playing the fifth largest simulation game in the world.
Start small. Many Dungeon Masters want to create their own worlds and narratives, but building complex adventures and campaigns is a huge undertaking at first and a complete understanding of the rules can prevent the necessary momentum to run a complex story and lead to a disappointing first experience.
Whether you’re using the Phandelver Lost Mine launch feature – available on the 5th Edition Starter Set – or your own personal adventure, it’s important to start small and allow plenty of space to make mistakes.
Read the rules found in The Player’s Handbook, select the environment, choose a setting, learn from one or two species of animals, and send your hunters on a short quest that requires them to traverse this area to work with these predators. Give them gold and one or two pieces of equipment if they have successfully completed the search.
Leave the Development Room
Leave the Development Room. It is impossible to prepare everything your players will think. The time spent removing the complex backgrounds of the good people of Daggerford is wasted when your countrymen decided they didn’t want to go to Daggerford, but instead chose to sleep in the woods on the outskirts of town. To save yourself from wasting hours, or days, of preparation, you should avoid getting into too much detail when creating non-player characters, locations, monsters, etc.
Give every non-player character a name and one or two descriptive parts (like a big scar on their right eye or six fingers on their left hand) so that players can easily see them, but let the good details come out while you actually play the game. If the character, place, beast, etc. Once shown in your game, keep a reference card with their name and key features – and what happened to them in the game – from time to time.
Ima. Join and listen
Ima. Join and listen. Often the new Dungeon Masters confuse their role as political and dictatorial rivals, but the Dungeons & Dragons are experienced storytellers, in partnership with the DM and the actors involved in what happens in the narrative. Being responsible for making the world where your players live is scary, but remember that you are all together to play the game and have fun – yes, even Dungeon Master.
Make it a practice to ask your players questions about their characters, such as “Since you’ve been here before, what is your opinion of Baldur’s Gate?” and “Have you fought bedbugs before? If so, how did that happen to you?” This puts players in a position to think about the world from the perspective of their characters and allows them to contribute to building the world, taking responsibility for it.
If you’re really comfortable with your team, you can ask them questions like “What’s the best name for a nerve shop owner?” The more you put your players in your world, the more they will invest.
There is no limit to the number of tools available for DM to consider, but keeping these three tips in mind will help any new Dungeon Master feel at home.
If you are interested in learning more about being the best Dungeon Master, check out Matt Colville’s YouTube Running the Game series.
Ellis Smith is an active Wizards player of the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons and DMs multiple bi-weekly games local and over Discord. He enjoys writing about a variety of topics, but sports are his passion.