Any tips/tricks for a new D&D DM?
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  1. #1

    Any tips/tricks for a new D&D DM?

    A couple of friends want me to jump right into DMing, and I am not opposed to it but I have minimal experience mastering any table tops. Anyone have any tips?

  2. #2

    Scout (Lvl 6)

    thanson02's Avatar

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    Sep 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Lividlegends View Post
    A couple of friends want me to jump right into DMing, and I am not opposed to it but I have minimal experience mastering any table tops. Anyone have any tips?

    1. Do practice runs with the mechanics. So run a few combat, social, and exploration encounters to get comfortable with how they run.

    2. Start small and the go big. Too often, new DMs try to go with the big epic story arcs and they end up biting off more then they can chew. Also, they try to come up with all their own stuff right away. There is nothing wrong with premade adventures. If anything, they work well as a track to follow.

    3. Use your play experience to set your play style: if you have played before, take your bad experience and do the opposite of them. Then pick through the good stuff and add that. That will start you off in a good place. Then I would find DMs online and watch the ones you enjoy. You will pick up on little things you can add to your game.

    That should get you started. ��

    Sent from my XT1096 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by thanson02; Tuesday, 28th March, 2017 at 06:14 PM.
    XP Ralif Redhammer, Imaculata gave XP for this post

  3. #3
    Awesome! Thank you so much.

    Sent from my VS986 using EN World mobile app

  4. #4

    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Solid advice from Thanson02. I’d add talking to your players about the kind of things they have fun doing. Do they like combat? High-difficulty, low-difficulty? Are they big fans of social interaction and role-playing?

    Sometimes being a good DM is more about being the right DM for your group.

    And don't be afraid to pause play when you need to look up a rule. Since you're new to DMing, they should be understanding. And the more you know, the less you'll need to do so as you go on.

    Matt Mercer’s GM Tips are also really good to watch:

  5. #5

    Scout (Lvl 6)

    thanson02's Avatar

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    Sep 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralif Redhammer View Post
    Sometimes being a good DM is more about being the right DM for your group
    This one is huge and always good to keep in mind. Tell the story you want to tell. Those who like it will stick around.

    Sent from my XT1096 using Tapatalk

  6. #6

    Magsman (Lvl 14)

    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Chester County, Pennsylvania
    Watch a good DM run a game. For example...

  7. #7

    Guide (Lvl 11)

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Gainesville, Florida
    Here are some things I've learned:

    Expect to make mistakes, but don't sweat it. Everyone does, especially when starting out. Your players will have fun anyway, because role-playing games are fun. DM'ing is a bit of a skill, so you'll get better the more times you do it.

    Don't try to play your own character while DM'ing. Just give up playing a character while you DM. You get to play all the NPCs, so let your players play their characters. When I started, I really wanted to play, but no one else wanted to DM, so I tried to have my cake and eat it too by DM'ing and also playing a character. Big mistake. It takes time away from the other players, and most of all there's a conflict of interest. Even if there isn't one, your players will think there is. Over time I learned I really loved to DM and I didn't need or want to play a character while I DM'd.

    When a player tells you that you've gotten a rule wrong, be willing to admit you're wrong and be willing to investigate it. You may want to look into it after the session is over, so as not to slow the session down. But if everyone is fine with it and it's quick to look up the rule, go ahead and do it. Tell your players from the start that you're new to DM'ing so you will try to get all the rules right, but you might make some mistakes. Assure them that you will do your best to be fair about everything. They should be patient and nice with you if they are good people. If they are jerks about it, then you don't want to play with them anyway. Of course, the more you DM the better grasp you will have on the rules. Once again, don't sweat it. You will make mistakes, and that's OK.

    Some practical tips:

    Do as many rolls and setup as you can ahead of time. This includes encounter rolls or whatever. Basically you don't want to be pausing for a long time to make a lot of rolls to set something up, if you can help it. Any rolls and setup you can do before the session begins helps a lot.

    You don't want to railroad the adventure of course, but you will probably have an idea of what your players may do given the scenario they are presented with. So make a play-list of sorts, outlining the possible and probable encounters and story plot elements they will come across. This will help you organize things in your mind and keep your flow smooth. Your players WILL do some unexpected things and make unexpected choices. So just go with it. Move story plot elements around on the fly as needed. Have some backup encounters ready that you can just throw in anywhere if you need to.

    Get all your monsters together ahead of time so you can transition to the fight as smoothly as possible. So, this might mean writing down all the monsters they will fight in a notebook, with their hitpoints and whatnot, ahead of time. It might mean bookmarking the monsters in the monster manual.

    My monster manual fell apart, and so I took every page and put them in individual plastic page protectors and put them in a big binder. So now when I set up a session, I can take the individual pages of monsters they will encounter out of the binder, and put them neatly in a spot where I can use them. It eliminates flipping through the monster manual. As a bonus, I can use dry erase on the plastic covers, to mark off spell slots used for the casters.

    Speaking of spells, if you have any magic caster monsters, familiarize yourself with their spells, so you don't have to flip through the PHB constantly. Make notes if you need to. Also, for any encounter, take some time to think about the tactics the monsters will use, or the spells they will likely use, ahead of time. So when you get to the battle, you don't have to waste time figuring that out then.

    All these things should help with the flow.

    For all my players, I write their characters' names down on blank index cards. I fold the index cards in half and write the names on both sides. Then I simply put the cards on my DM screen in the order of their initiative roll. That makes it easy for everyone to see who is about to go next. (I make generic cards for groups of monsters. M1, M2, M3, etc.) Because your players can see when they are about to act, it helps to remind them to think about what they will do on their turn, which also speeds up play. I also use a clothes pin and put it over each card as we go through initiative order, so that I don't lose track or skip anyone.
    Last edited by machineelf; Tuesday, 21st March, 2017 at 08:10 AM.
    XP Xaspian, pdzoch, CydKnight gave XP for this post

  8. #8

    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    London England
    Run something small and simple, but with plenty of player choice. Old school dungeons are perfect for this - I recommend Dyson's Delve or many of the One Page Dungeon contest entries. These bare bones adventures are good for developing important GM skills such as adding your own ideas to published material, while Dyson's maps give plenty of room for choices in exploration.

    The classic & best starting point is a simple 'home base' area such as a village or (for SF) a frontier starport, plus an adventure site nearby such as a dungeon or ruin. This creates a natural play dynamic that is easy to run and can support long term play. The home base can have minimal detail, but a few friendly NPCs with one-line personalities is a good minimum to make it feel alive.

  9. #9
    Play with friends, or at least people you trust to forgive any mistakes you make. Explain which parts of DMing you find challenging, and ask for their help.

    Don't try to overwhelm yourself with getting everything right all at once. Start with simple adventures and ideas, and work up to more challenging games as you grow in confidence. Don't worry if it's not perfect - as long as everyone at the table enjoys it, it doesn't matter if things don't go according to plan.

    Delegate some parts of running the game to save your brainpower for other parts. For example, I tend to put one of the players in charge of tracking everyone's initiative, which means it's one less thing for me to think about, and another player volunteers to take notes as a detailed record of our sessions.

  10. #10

    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    jasper's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    montgomery al
    Do a DM cheat sheet which list pc name, class, level, hit pts, spell dc, etc. Have a session zero where you talk about what type of campaign you be running.
    Say yes but be willing to say no after you said yes. Ex. Jasper your magic missile machine gun sounded good but after 2 sessions it sucks.
    Decide on fudging or no fudging (are you going change the dice roll etc after the fact).
    Play a lot of low adventures first. This will help the players build their pc collection, and you get use to how the players react at the table.
    Be willing to smack players upside the head if they are making you uncomfortable. EX. Jasper the dirty jokes have to stop around the kids, and quit hitting on my girl friend.
    Don't drop too much dough into the game. A few adventures, 2 or 3 sets of dice and you are good.

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