All caught up with Stranger Things and now inspired to play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) to fill your time? Well, you’re not alone.
We’ve noticed that worldwide searches for Dungeons & Dragons have increased by 42% since the 2016 Netflix release of Stranger Things. Not only that, but according to Google Trends, searches for ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ online’ in the United States has grown by 400% over the past 90 days* – a period that includes the release date of Stranger Things Season 4.
And if you’re starting out in the game, you’ll need to have a Dungeon Master (DM), someone to control the pace of the story and steer the action as it unfolds.
If you’ve been nominated as a DM by your friends, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! The prospect of running a game may seem daunting at first, but with a little preparation and a few simple tricks, you’ll have your first DM session done in no time.
We teamed up with an experienced DM, Gemma Grover, who has 20 years of experience in the game, to share her top tips for fulfilling the DM role:
first. Small start
Start with a session. These little adventures, often referred to as one-shots, are a great way for people to try things out without a lot of commitment.
One-shot can still include great characters, great setting, and lots of fun adventures without planning to meet every Saturday for the next two years.
A single afternoon or evening can leave you with great memories, and if the team fails or someone doesn’t want to play anymore, no one should be left in an awkward situation. This also gives you as a DM the chance to try different setups (e.g. dungeon vs city vs jungle) or styles (humor vs horror vs politics) .
And for players with dozens of character ideas, a few one-shots will allow them to try at least a few!
2. Simple start
If you’re like me, you probably have a million ideas for epic campaigns with worlds and characters that you’ve been thinking about for a long time. So what I’m about to say may sound paradoxical but…. Do not use them for your first adventure.
Chances are, these ideas mean a lot to you, and they’re probably pretty complicated – a recipe for a challenging time for a bunch of newbies.
Instead, choose a story and a single Big Bad Enemy. Choose a single setting where the player can logically go from Point A to Point C, with or without visiting Point B. With any luck, your party will keep playing and you will have Once upon a time, the epic adventure of their dreams has been settled.
3. Don’t go alone
It’s easy to feel like you need to get everything ready (D&D lingo for you to write it all yourself!)
While this can be a lot of fun, it can also be overwhelming. There are plenty of pre-made resources and modules that you can rely on to make it easier and more manageable.
New DMs often try to get everything ready for their first session, but this can make things a lot harder than it should be. The modules and adventures you can choose to make ready are usually tested, which means you don’t need to worry about whether something is made too strong, underpowered, or simply plain broken.
4. Plan ahead
Those D&D books are expensive, and every second you spend flipping through one to find the details of a spell or rule feels like 5 minutes of anguish and anxiety.
I like to pull every spell my NPC (non-playable character) can use, monster stat blocks, and details of any intricate mechanics before we play. I like to limit the screen to blocks of statistics from digital sources, combine them in order of encounter in a document and print them out or have them digitally ready. That little prep work also gave me a chance to see how far I had planned and if it was a reasonable amount for the time we had planned.
I’d also like to break down my sessions and turns into “Actions” – what are the main points I’m trying to achieve and is it evenly paced? Everyone will need snacks and toilet breaks, and planning the sessions into these Smaller Actions also leaves a good time for breaks. I try not to plan an Action that lasts more than 2.5 hours.
While it’s important to know your own character, you do NOT need to know everything about the player’s character.
If they cast a spell or use an ability you don’t know about, ask them to describe it or read it from the book. “How does it work?” is a valid question and allows players to teach each other about the game!
5. Don’t get too attached
Your players will be chaos demons – literally every player is.
If you meticulously plan a story that must go in order and hit every detail, you will be very disappointed and perhaps frustrated. Every player is going to be a rogue – and chances are the whole party will choose to journey south after you’ve planned your snowy north adventure.
Pick two or three must-haves and think of some ways you can encourage players to go that way. Otherwise, just be flexible and know that when players miss big parts of the story, you can put them in later or the game if you really love them.
6. Includes many types
Some players love combat, some love role-playing, and some love mechanics.
If you’re just starting out, especially with a new group of players, try to include a little bit of everything so you and your players find your style. Keep in mind that fighting will be a hassle at first while everyone figure out how to play, roleplaying will be awkward and chaotic as the group of gels and mechanics will be misplayed more often than not, so there’s a chance to practice. All of this will benefit everyone.
My tip is to try to include some minigames with new players – whether it’s a carnival-style experiment, a pub-based mini-encounter, or a dungeon puzzle room.
Arm wrestling matches, storytelling challenges, potion feats – all give players the chance to try out a variety of skills to see what they love best, and make sure there’s nothing special about the game. characters are ignored.
7. Let creativity reign supreme
I try to improvise for guidance here – I always try to say “yes and” rather than no when my players are trying something weird. The ‘and’ sign can have some terrible consequences or tricks that can require 20x scrolling to succeed, but giving players a chance to tell the story with their own ideas is crucial. to have a good time.
Sometimes this also means getting creative with numbers. This is the point where I sometimes disagree with other DMs who believe that numbers should never be manipulated, but I do believe that fun and creativity are valid reasons to falsify numbers. number a bit.
A great DM once taught me to challenge players to describe things in an amazing way for extra damage to kill enemies or gain that near-ready skill test, and let me tell you , every player loves the opportunity to recount their way of taking victory from the jaws of defeat. I use that markup all the time.
It’s perfectly fine to move the numbers up a bit if you’re doing it for a good cause, but it needs to be fair – every player needs an equal chance to do so and you shouldn’t. do it to benefit your own NPC.
Consequences and risk are an important element of fun – if players don’t feel like they can really lose, either individually or as a team, that takes a ton of the excitement. You should plan what the “failure” looks like for every key element of your session, and it is entirely possible.
As devastating as Total Party Kill can be, fearing it can help players make rational choices and feel proud of their victory. No player is immune to Bad Things Happening.
9. Solve problems before they start
TVLK ends up with the informal leaders of any group – this usually means you’re the one in charge of solving problems as they come up.
That means ending arguments between players, berating a player who wants to bend the rules, or demanding attention when things get too chaotic.
It’s scary to do that when you’re new to the role, but trust me – saying something early will help prevent problems before they flare. Hopefully you’ll get help from the players and everyone will work together to make sure the sessions remain fun for everyone.
ten. To listen
Your players will have a million opinions on everything – and that can be as simple as how they react when monsters are revealed or the battle is over.
Pay attention to those responses: are they excited? Engagement? If they like what’s going on, that’s a great hint of the types of play they like.
Listen to those unusual comments, whether it’s a player complaining they can’t cast a particular spell or they don’t know why they’re using a particular skill. Use that information to create situations where they WILL use those spells or skills – those are the moments that can really make people feel involved. And, if they directly complain that they don’t like someone, don’t take it as an attack on you – use that information to change and adapt as needed.
As a DM, you have the opportunity to create a whole world of fun for you and your friends. The worrying thing is, just remember that everyone around the D&D desk has a role to play in making the sessions a success, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Every great DM is new at one point.
Adventure fun, new Dungeon Master!
*Stats were obtained as of July 4, 2022, and are based on the last 90 days (the time period includes the release date of Stranger Things Season 4) – compared to the previous period.
https://www.fandomspot.com/expert-tips-for-new-dnd-dms/ Growing interest in D&D thanks to Stranger Things – FandomSpot