Monday, May 3, 2021

Five Tips for New Dungeon Masters

You've agreed to DM your first game of Dungeons and Dragons (or Pathfinder, or Star Wars, or whatever) and now you look at the stack of books in front of you and wonder where to even begin. How do you fashion an entire world and story interesting enough to keep your players engaged? What if they do something you didn't plan for? Where are the stats for how hard a table is? 

Take a deep breath. You've got this. Here's five easy tips for new dungeon masters to make their games amazing. 

5: "Yes, And"
Remember that you and the players are telling a story together. When a player does something unexpected, don't have a swarm of high level knights suddenly spawn to take the player away, and don't tell the player they can't do something if they're perfectly capable of trying. Let them try whatever they want to try and make it part of the story. If they want to climb up on a roof to scout for enemies let them roll a athletics check, and if they roll low tell them how they fell on their butts. If they want to rob the magic weapon store owner let them try it, maybe roll for some fun treasure they can find or have them try to deal with a guard dog they didn't know about. The point is don't hinder your players, encourage them to think outside the box. It's one of the things that makes Dungeons and Dragons fun in the first place. 

4: No Hollow NPCs
Remember in the OG Final Fantasy game where town guards would just say "Welcome to Cornaria!" or whatever? You don't want NPCs like that, so give them a little personality. They don't all need to have fully written backstories with a family chart (Unless you want to, but calm down George RR Martin). Have a list of random character traits on hand that you can sprinkle onto the barmaid or the enemy cultist, make the players feel like they're in an actual world rather than inside a game. 

3: Not All Fights Are Fights To The Death
Nothing is worse than a fight taking forever against some low level scrubs just there to give out XP. This follows from tip 4 by making your world feel more real. When the monsters or enemies see that they're losing the fight or that their commander has fallen, let them run away from the adventurers. If a magic user in the party creates an illusion of Tiamat on the field, have some enemies flee in terror. Don't let your battles drag on just because you feel they can only end with everyone's hit points completely eliminated. 

2: Rule of Fun
You may be going for an ultra-realistic gritty style of game, or a dreary gothic atmosphere, but realize that at the end of the day you're a bunch of people sitting around a table imagining that halflings are real. So calm down, goofy stuff is inevitable, and someone's going to crack a joke somewhere. Let the game be fun for your players. It's okay to have something that isn't totally realistic if it means that the game can be more entertaining. Let the half-orc barbarian dress up as a lady in waiting to infiltrate the castle. Allow the fighter to have the blacksmith emblazon the Nike symbol onto his armor. It's fun so why not?

1: Communicate With Your Players
Just because you're the Dungeon Master doesn't mean you have to be the lone leader of the land. It's okay to let your players know what's going on behind the DM screen and ask for their help. Say "Okay I have no idea how to roll that properly so I'm just going to say that you succeed since it sounds like you would" or "You know what I didn't design that part of town that thoroughly so let's say you found the place fine." It's okay to even say "Okay this scenario is really stressing me out can I get everyone to take a 10 minute break while I figure this out and get my head back together?" then take 15, because you're the Dungeon Master and they can't play without you anyway. Dungeons and Dragons is a co-op experience, and that includes with the DM. If you're not having fun then that needs to be addressed the same as if a player wasn't having fun. 


No comments:

Post a Comment