10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master – A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master – A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

Hey, guys! I'm back. Hope everyone is having a good week.


Anywho, I've published a new D&D article. This time around, I have some tips and tricks for how to be a better dungeon master.


If you guys could provide me with some feedback or additional tips, I would greatly appreciate the constructive criticism.


Have a good day, everybody!


https://www.gametruth.com/guides/10-tips-to-being-a-better-dungeon-master-a-dungeons-and-dragons-guide/
 

Mort

Community Supporter
Hey, guys! I'm back. Hope everyone is having a good week.


Anywho, I've published a new D&D article. This time around, I have some tips and tricks for how to be a better dungeon master.


If you guys could provide me with some feedback or additional tips, I would greatly appreciate the constructive criticism.


Have a good day, everybody!


https://www.gametruth.com/guides/10-tips-to-being-a-better-dungeon-master-a-dungeons-and-dragons-guide/
I like 9.5 of your 10 suggestions.

The .5 is the critical fumble. I like the suggestion about making a miss memorable, you should have hit, but by some fluke you missed!

But I hate critical fumble rules. You punish characters, particularly melee characters, extra severely, just for doing their thing (and since they're the ones in the thick of it, the fumbles happen to them the most).

Take hopping on one foot, as a result of stubbing your toe. Does that mean disadvantage on attacks? You've just hamstrung the fighter's effectiveness until he recovers.

This is just my opinion, of course.
 

Gradine

Archivist
The key to approaching critical fumbles is to read the room. Often times critical fumbles add an element of slapstick to a combat. Would that be appropriate to the situation? Then embellish to your heart's content! Would slapstick instead be a significant tonal shift? Best to avoid. Tone is something that is often very particular to a group, and even changes scene-to-scene.

One thing I'd avoid codifying is a critical fumble table. This takes away from your ability to control the tone associated with a fumble. The other thing I'd avoid is trying to suss out the direct mechanical implications of every critical fumble. A critical fumble doesn't always have to result in damage, or a status condition, or disadvantage, etc. It's enough, when they're appropriate to use in the first place, for the result of the fumble to just be highly embarrassing. That can be memorable in its own right.

Of course, ideally a critical fumble changes the situation of the combat in such a way that clever combatant (on either side) can then take advantage of. Perhaps the barbarian missed and driven their greataxe into a tree so hard it takes a greater degree of effort to dislodge it (a not uncommon trope in fictional combats). Before the barbarian removes it, your Monk can attempt to use the exposed handle as a stepping stone, leaping into the air to grapple the giant bat fluttering just out of reach. Critical fumbles can shatter cover, create difficult terrain, etc.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
I dislike the crit fumbles/failures.
But that's because I actually don't like crits - either good or bad. I don't like the idea that there's something more special (beyond always succeeds/always fails) about rolling a particular # that has the exact same odds of occurring as the other 18.
Nor do I buy the crap about crit failures being extra punishing to the players, particularly those who make more rolls. Consider: those same players are perfectly willing to accept extra positives 5% of the time.

Pre-rolling. :(
Look, part of this game IS rolling the dice. Even though I'm the DM I still enjoy rolling the dice at the table come game time. Initiative, Saves, To-Hits, skill checks, etc. And I roll in the open using bright yellow dice so that the results can be seen.
Besides, me pre-rolling would be really poor form. Afterall, if a player came to the table with pre-rolled results I wouldn't accept it. Why in the world should the reverse be true?
Because of this? Our stories have taken dramatic & surprising swings as the dice gods have given their input spur of the moment.... For Ex: In the last PF campaign I ran, the grand finale boss fight - that was going to be sooo epic & cool & really test the heroes, etc - ended in the 1st round. PC1 casts a spell/uses effect & can bypass Spell Resistance. Boss will Save on a 2+. A 2+! I roll a 1. Boss has the means to re-roll any one save. I roll another 1! :( Players almost die laughing. Campaign wraps up. That is not quite how I'd envisioned that scene going.... I hear about my epic failed boss save about every three sessions. This will continue until approximately the heat death of the universe.
This story would not be possible with pre-rolling as I'd roll those 1s in the Saves column & then do everything in my power {wich as I'm the DM, is considerable) to not have them apply to the same effect.
 
I like 9.5 of your 10 suggestions.

The .5 is the critical fumble. I like the suggestion about making a miss memorable, you should have hit, but by some fluke you missed!

But I hate critical fumble rules. You punish characters, particularly melee characters, extra severely, just for doing their thing (and since they're the ones in the thick of it, the fumbles happen to them the most).

Take hopping on one foot, as a result of stubbing your toe. Does that mean disadvantage on attacks? You've just hamstrung the fighter's effectiveness until he recovers.

This is just my opinion, of course.
Hey, Mort. Thank you for the feedback! Everyone seems to unanimously dislike fumble rules, lol. I'll make sure to take that to heart. I'm glad you liked the guide though!
 
I dislike the crit fumbles/failures.
But that's because I actually don't like crits - either good or bad. I don't like the idea that there's something more special (beyond always succeeds/always fails) about rolling a particular # that has the exact same odds of occurring as the other 18.
Nor do I buy the crap about crit failures being extra punishing to the players, particularly those who make more rolls. Consider: those same players are perfectly willing to accept extra positives 5% of the time.

Pre-rolling. :(
Look, part of this game IS rolling the dice. Even though I'm the DM I still enjoy rolling the dice at the table come game time. Initiative, Saves, To-Hits, skill checks, etc. And I roll in the open using bright yellow dice so that the results can be seen.
Besides, me pre-rolling would be really poor form. Afterall, if a player came to the table with pre-rolled results I wouldn't accept it. Why in the world should the reverse be true?
Because of this? Our stories have taken dramatic & surprising swings as the dice gods have given their input spur of the moment.... For Ex: In the last PF campaign I ran, the grand finale boss fight - that was going to be sooo epic & cool & really test the heroes, etc - ended in the 1st round. PC1 casts a spell/uses effect & can bypass Spell Resistance. Boss will Save on a 2+. A 2+! I roll a 1. Boss has the means to re-roll any one save. I roll another 1! :( Players almost die laughing. Campaign wraps up. That is not quite how I'd envisioned that scene going.... I hear about my epic failed boss save about every three sessions. This will continue until approximately the heat death of the universe.
This story would not be possible with pre-rolling as I'd roll those 1s in the Saves column & then do everything in my power {wich as I'm the DM, is considerable) to not have them apply to the same effect.
Hey, CCS. I see your point about pre-rolling. I was on the fence about placing that tidbit in my guide, because I often feel as you do. That being said, I just felt like it was a concept many DMs don't consider. I figure it is better to know your options. Plus, my friends tend to enjoy pre-rolling. But, I honestly agree with you most of the time. The gambling thrill of rolling die is kinda the whole point!
 

aco175

Adventurer
I had a simple rule in 3e where a crit allowed you to make another attack and a fumble made you skip one attack. It worked and was easy to play, but seemed to lack the big number of crits some of the characters had.
 
The key to approaching critical fumbles is to read the room. Often times critical fumbles add an element of slapstick to a combat. Would that be appropriate to the situation? Then embellish to your heart's content! Would slapstick instead be a significant tonal shift? Best to avoid. Tone is something that is often very particular to a group, and even changes scene-to-scene.

One thing I'd avoid codifying is a critical fumble table. This takes away from your ability to control the tone associated with a fumble. The other thing I'd avoid is trying to suss out the direct mechanical implications of every critical fumble. A critical fumble doesn't always have to result in damage, or a status condition, or disadvantage, etc. It's enough, when they're appropriate to use in the first place, for the result of the fumble to just be highly embarrassing. That can be memorable in its own right.

Of course, ideally a critical fumble changes the situation of the combat in such a way that clever combatant (on either side) can then take advantage of. Perhaps the barbarian missed and driven their greataxe into a tree so hard it takes a greater degree of effort to dislodge it (a not uncommon trope in fictional combats). Before the barbarian removes it, your Monk can attempt to use the exposed handle as a stepping stone, leaping into the air to grapple the giant bat fluttering just out of reach. Critical fumbles can shatter cover, create difficult terrain, etc.
Hey, Gradine! Thanks for your thoughts. I like where you are going with this. I think you should read the room. Honestly, reading the room can wisely apply to a whole bunch of things in D&D.
 
It's my opinion too actually.

As is enjoying the rest of it.

It's your best work yet, SomethingClever
Hey, Barbarian! Awh, thank you. That means a lot. I hope I'm at least not getting worse, lol. I'll be back when I have another interesting idea for a guide. If you have any ideas you would like to see, feel free to message me.
 
Hey, aco! It's nice to see you again. Hope things are well. I like your idea. I wouldn't mind trying that in 5e. Anywho, always feel free to message me if you have any feedback or story ideas you would like to send my way. Have a good one!
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Critical effects should be balanced against each other. If there's a critical hit, there should be a critical miss. Critical Hits are easy, both mechanically and how to describe them. However, designing a universal penalty that applies to every form of attack (from melee to thrown, to ammunition or even spells) is nigh impossible if it's to be realistic. The best one that I've found is that a Critical Miss causes the next attack made against you before the start of your next turn to have advantage. It's not great, but it balances things out, and it represents your over-commitment to the failed attack, leaving you open.

Oddly, it would be easier to create a Minimal Hit to be the opposite of a Critical Hit, where you exactly hit the needed AC. The attack deals half the damage from the dice, but the modifier remains the same (basically the opposite of a critical hit).
 

pogre

Adventurer
Solid work here are my critiques:

1. I always flinch a bit when D.M.'s "tell their story" in a game. The phrasing suggests a railroad plot as opposed to structured challenges that the players create the narrative through. It is a nitpik, but as a guy who works with a lot of young DMs I will tell you writing a novel and inserting the PCs is a tendency I have to work against for these young folks.

2. Hate critical fumbles. Robs the PCs of agency.

3 - 5. Good suggestions - perhaps use the term "session zero".

6. Lots of opinions on how to do recaps, but overall I think they are a good idea.

7. Not a fan of pre-rolls - that's definitely a personal preference and not a real critique.

8. My default would be make a ruling and move on - with rules issues looked up outside the game.

9. Good suggestions.

10. Good resources.
 
Hi, I find your guide interesting thank you for sharing your work
Hey, avensis! Awh, thank you! I'm glad you find them worth your time. I'll definitely be back once I've come up with a new guide topic to cook up. Always feel free to message me if you ever have any feedback or guide ideas you would like to see made.

Thank you again for your support and have a great day.
 
Solid work here are my critiques:

1. I always flinch a bit when D.M.'s "tell their story" in a game. The phrasing suggests a railroad plot as opposed to structured challenges that the players create the narrative through. It is a nitpik, but as a guy who works with a lot of young DMs I will tell you writing a novel and inserting the PCs is a tendency I have to work against for these young folks.

2. Hate critical fumbles. Robs the PCs of agency.

3 - 5. Good suggestions - perhaps use the term "session zero".

6. Lots of opinions on how to do recaps, but overall I think they are a good idea.

7. Not a fan of pre-rolls - that's definitely a personal preference and not a real critique.

8. My default would be make a ruling and move on - with rules issues looked up outside the game.

9. Good suggestions.

10. Good resources.
Hey, Pogre! Thank you so much for taking the time to shoot me some feedback. It means a lot to me. And, you make some great points.

I'll keep these in mind as I keep making articles. Have a nice day!
 

jasper

Rotten DM
1. But don’t fall in love with your story. You are playing a game not writing a novel.
2. BEEP BEEP BEEP on this. Maybe just maybe if you confirm the Nat 1 and another Nat 1 comes up.
3. My group generally adds 1 to number of members for the kitty. Kitty was used for various things helping pay for a raise dead, general bribes, and I forget.
4. And write those house rules down. And give notice when you drop them due them not working. It is better to just drop a house rule than keep trying to fix it. See * for my old 3.5 rules
5. Talk is good. Honest feedback is better.
6. Good.
7. Not a fan but if helps you out. See 7 A. Below.
8. Truth.
9. What you talking about Willis. Organized Notes. Is this a fantasy?
10. Add your players as a resource.


**
House rules 3.5
0. Core rule books only.
1. On a fail saving throw of 1 all items make a save and all can be lost.
2. Squeeze is removed.
3. Polearms under 8 feet in length can be used in close quarters without penalty.
4. Two minute time limit looking up rules. A judgment will then be made and it stands for rest of night. Major errors will be corrected.
5. Sometimes the monsters will break the rules.

Table rules
1. Once a Standard Operating Procedure is established; the players will follow it, even if means stepping on the landmine.
2. The treasure keeper’s pc does not necessary carry the loot.
3. Death comes easy so do raising.

***
7A. What I have done for weather, and wandering monsters; is have the players roll ahead of time. So this wandering monster of 4 Apes and Bard is brought to you by Pogre.
 
1. But don’t fall in love with your story. You are playing a game not writing a novel.
2. BEEP BEEP BEEP on this. Maybe just maybe if you confirm the Nat 1 and another Nat 1 comes up.
3. My group generally adds 1 to number of members for the kitty. Kitty was used for various things helping pay for a raise dead, general bribes, and I forget.
4. And write those house rules down. And give notice when you drop them due them not working. It is better to just drop a house rule than keep trying to fix it. See * for my old 3.5 rules
5. Talk is good. Honest feedback is better.
6. Good.
7. Not a fan but if helps you out. See 7 A. Below.
8. Truth.
9. What you talking about Willis. Organized Notes. Is this a fantasy?
10. Add your players as a resource.


**
House rules 3.5
0. Core rule books only.
1. On a fail saving throw of 1 all items make a save and all can be lost.
2. Squeeze is removed.
3. Polearms under 8 feet in length can be used in close quarters without penalty.
4. Two minute time limit looking up rules. A judgment will then be made and it stands for rest of night. Major errors will be corrected.
5. Sometimes the monsters will break the rules.

Table rules
1. Once a Standard Operating Procedure is established; the players will follow it, even if means stepping on the landmine.
2. The treasure keeper’s pc does not necessary carry the loot.
3. Death comes easy so do raising.

***
7A. What I have done for weather, and wandering monsters; is have the players roll ahead of time. So this wandering monster of 4 Apes and Bard is brought to you by Pogre.
Hey, Jasper! Thank you for your thoughtful feedback! I honestly agree with pretty much everything you said, lol. I'll keep these comments close as I continue to write more guides.

Thank you again for your thoughts and feel free to shoot me a message if you have any D&D guide ideas you would like to see made in the future. I'm always open to ideas.

Have a great day!
 

Arvok

Explorer
I LOVE playing with critical misses. Most players seem to enjoy the benefits of a critical hit when they roll well, so what's the justification for not having an ill effect when they roll poorly? This is a two-way street, by the way. I've had players get lucky when the bad guy rolls a fumble at a critical point in the battle that turns the tide in their favor.

As for spell casters, any spell requiring an attack roll opens them up to fumbles. Also, I usually play it so that anyone rolling a natural 1 on a saving throw suffers more than if he had just rolled a normal miss. This can be a big benefit too spellcasters.

IMO, if the rolling of dice is one of the exciting aspects of combat and you expect special results at one end of the spectrum, you need to have special results at the other end.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Combine 9 and 6 into this: keep a game log, preferably online or somewhere where players can access it during the week. Tell them that one of their duties as a player is to read the log between sessions. (obviously you keep your own notes as DM as well for thigns that aren't (yet) public knowledge).

As for fumbles - love 'em. But not on every natural 1, nor should crits happen on every natural 20 - far too frequent in both cases. Instead, use some kind of confirm roll (we use 1/d6 for a fumble, for example) to reduce the frequency.

For 3-4-5 you might want to tweak your wording a bit - talking about "the party" implies things happening with the PCs, where your advice involves talking to the players. Bi-ig difference. :) Also, the idea of a "party contract" doesn't work well if the campaign intends to have player turnover, unless the group wants to revisit the discussion (which IME can quickly become a roaring argument) every time a new player joins. Without this, a new player always feels a bit second-class in that they didn't get the same input into the rules as did the originals.

Easier just to say this: "In-character, anything goes. As soon as it becomes an out-of-character problem between real players as opposed to imaginary characters, however, it'll get smacked down and players will be asked to leave. Treasury division is up to you, as long as the end result is more or less fair to all."
 

Advertisement

Top