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To DM or not to DM. That is the question. Any advice?


First Post
I've been thinking about DMing for a few years now. I've even created my own world, putting bits and pieces together over time when ideas strike me. My problem is. I REALLY love being a player. I do. I'm extremely worried that I'll start it and not have fun and may force myself to keep doing it because I don't want to disappoint or upset the players. I only have time to be involved in one campaign currently, so that's a factor as well.

I really like putting together plots, adventure, themes, building worlds, etc. I just don't know if it will end up becoming a thing where I won't have as much fun because I'm trying to focus on remembering everything, setting things up, and it become more of feeling like a "job" with having to manage everything than like I'm playing a game. Part of me feels like it will be a lot of fun because I get to pretty much role play an entire universe. I get to provide a place for others to have fun and experience a new world. I just don't know what it will feel like in practice. I thought about running a one shot, but I don't know if that would give me an accurate judgment on if I would enjoy running a campaign, but I don't want to get a group together and tell them "hey I may decide to quit after if I'm not feeling it." That seems really :):):):):):) to do to a group of people.

As a player I love joining a new campaign and playing through it because I get this feeling that I can only equate to the first time I watched Lord of the Rings. It was the first time I ever watched a movie that wasn't just an action or cartoon movie when I was a kid. I absolutely loved it. I wanted to learn everything about it from the races, the languages, everything. I love experiencing that and feel like I would lose that as a DM and not enjoy it as much. On the same note though, I would love to let other people have that same feeling and see them being that interested in something I have created for them. I just am not sure what to do.

I think one thing that's kind of keeping me from doing it is that I had a group of close friends a couple of years ago that wanted to play and didn't know how so I was going to DM for them. 2 out of the 3 never even finished their character sheets and lost interest after like the 3rd day of talking about their characters. I'm not sure if that was because of me, the world I made, or just things going on in everyones lives at the time.

I'm probably rambling at this point, but do you have any advice or suggestions as to what I should do? I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

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41st lv DM
Who are you playing with right now? Talk to them & the current DM. Ask them if once this campaign wraps up if they'd consider letting you DM for a while - say 5 lvs.
(Lvs 1& 2 will zip past in a few - porobably overwhelming-
sessions. So it's lv 3-5 that will be the actual test as to wether you actually like doing this.
At the end of 5th lv then you & the group can decide if you want to continue yours or switch dms.

And if you do join our ranks? Don't worry about being awful at 1st. EVERY new DM is. And if they tell you otherwise they're lying.


A one-shot won't necessarily tell you if you'd enjoy running a campaign, but it may tell you that you definitely wouldn't. It is a good place to get your feet wet and practice.

I'm going to make a couple of assumptions: the campaign you're playing in is a closed group (i.e. not a public table) and composed of acquaintances/friends.

Mention to the DM privately that you'd like to try DMing and would like to run a few sessions. Make sure the DM is OK with it (depending on how long the person has been DMing it may be a relief). If the DM isn't comfortable with the idea, don't take it personally. You'll need to find a plan B.

If the DM is onboard, work out when it would be a good time to start (i.e. when the group gets back to town after stopping the current BBEG) and the number of sessions you'll run -- guess how many sessions a single adventure will take and add 2 == one for start-up and one because humans. Keep your count reasonably low. If you play weekly, stay under 6. If you play semi-weekly, stay under 5. If you play monthly, keep it under 3.

Mention to the group you'd like to try and run an adventure and the DM is onboard. Ask if they're willing to give it a try. If they don't want to try, don't take it personally and you'll need to work out a plan B.

If both the DM and the group OK your plan, congratulations! You are now obliged to run. Have the players create different PCs for your adventure.

Think carefully about the adventure.
  • It needs to be simple since you have limited time to run: pick something you think the group should be able to handle in half the time you have allotted.
  • It should be interesting: pick something different than the current or common enemies of the regular campaign.
  • It should stand apart: choose something different in tone and dressing than the current campaign.
  • Do not attempt to introduce much of the world you've created. The players need to know enough to make rational decisions and no more.
  • A successful resolution should hint at various future directions the PCs could become involved in.


As others have suggested, run a limited campaign with a predefined end. ccs's suggestion of a 5 level campaign seems about right to me.


Stuck in the 90s
Good advice for the specifics abounds in previous replies, so I won't touch on that topic.

Instead, I'll touch on the things you've mentioned as your hesitations and how much you enjoy playing - the things you believe you'll miss as a Dungeon Master.

Once you delve into your first campaign, or perhaps your first couple, and get comfortable with the ebb and flow of the game, you'll need less preparation time and be ready for truly letting your players run the game, sandbox I believe is the 'hep lingo' these days. Once you can create a world, and let the intent of the players truly drive what is happening at any given moment, you'll find that the unraveling mystery can be enjoyed even by you.

The development and unfolding creation of the world built not by only you, but by the collective narrative built by you and the entire party you play with will tell a story you didn't even foresee coming in many instances. You won't have to feel at all like the author who knows all the plot points ahead of time, but be entirely capable of maintaining many elements of surprise and wonder yourself. You'll find that many interesting aspects of the world become fleshed out in your head on the spot as a player/character creates something out of thin air right before your eyes, and like your first experience with Lord of the Rings, you behold wonder anew as your friends have given you that feeling all over again.

I've been DMing practically since I started playing this game 28 years ago, and that sense of wonder and discovery has never been robbed from me even by being the adjudicator at the end of the table. I truly hope you give it a try, and come to love it as I have simply by creating perhaps an overarching story, but letting the players fill in as many of the gaps as possible along the way.


Dying in Chargen
Do it, if you are going to do it, jump in. There is no time like the present. Will you make mistakes, yes, huge ones.

Try DMing a mini-campaign. You plan an adventure to take a set number of sessions (go with 10 to 12), and have players make characters knowing they are for this adventure and probably won't be played again.

Set the adventure somewhere in your world. Start at whatever level makes sense--don't assume it has to be 1st level.

These characters could either be laying down some groundwork history in preparation for a longer campaign, or be set on some distance part of your world you aren't intending to run a longer campaign in, or anything in-between.

That ought to give you and your players an idea of if you want to do a longer campaign.


The answer is DM. Do it. Have fun. Keep it short and simple. Don’t overthink it and don’t bury yourself or your players in needless details. Have fun. Seriously. Do it.


First Post
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate it!

Right now, my current group (which is online) I think is done playing. There are 3 players (had quite a few join and leave) and a DM. The DM had a surgery done and we haven't heard from him for a month and so I think we may just be splitting up if we don't hear from him in the next few weeks. The campaign was kind of fizzling out with certain players anyway. So I was going to get some of my other friends together instead that have been wanting to play. I guess what I could do, like you all suggested, is instead of just starting a campaign with my main story arch, I could do a short 5 level campaign (or just 3-4 sessions) that introduces the world to them before the story takes place. If we like it then we can just transition into the main story or could have them make all new character with the plan of running 1-max but picking up at the main arc.

With doing something like this, would it be better just to stick with the base, core rule books, or would it be okay to allow any official material? I have been playing for a few years and have every book and understand the basics of everything in them from playing a lot of it.


I’d allow any books that your players would be comfy using or ask for. If they are new maybe stick to the PHB so as not to overwhelm them off the bat.


I would say: Run a one shot, provide pregens, but allow players to bring their own PCs if they want. As it is a test drive I suggest using point buy/array & PHB only. You may want to run at 3rd or even 5th level due to the extreme vulnerability of 1st level in 5e.

Then if it goes well you can always continue it as a mini campaign, then a campaign! :) But don't plan to run some 60 session epic on day one.


Dying in Chargen
Doing what you feel is comfortable with is good advice, though to keep it simple, is also good. As per complexity, character options are good, extra rules that interrupt the flow of the game, are not good. Mostly one has to do enough prep to do a rough framework that allows for easy improvisation. As time goes by, you learn from experience in how to do it better.

Les Moore

First Post
I trade DMing for Role playing. The agreement is I will DM, but not constantly or permanently. This only works if you have others willing to DM.


Elder Thing
Yeah, understand this: once you decide to DM, it will become increasingly difficult to find games in which to be a player. Especially if people really like the games you run. Being a is awesome and amazing, and I say absolutely do it, but the most common gripe I hear from every single DM I know is that they wish they could be a player more often.

That said: do it. You won't regret it.


Guide of Modos
Yeah, understand this: once you decide to DM, it will become increasingly difficult to find games in which to be a player. . .
That said: do it. You won't regret it.

This reminds me of Hulu's current ad campaign: once you go Hulu, you can't go back to regular TV. Or as Joe Manganiello may be implying: once you go Sofia, you can't go back to...non-Columbian actresses.

I don't see this as "your players won't let you be a player" though. For me, it's more like "you'll pick apart everything that other GMs do." Because, well, you wouldn't let a player break this rule, or you wouldn't describe an area like that, or let the plot go there.

There is hope, though. I hear Joe has a gaming dungeon...

Also, as much as people bash on DMPCs, if you do it right it can work fine. Both me and a friend have run a PC in a campaign that we were DMing, and the group is fine with it. If anything, I've been told that I sometimes needlessly err on the side of not having my character take too active a part when I'm DMing.

You can't really do everything you could do as a regular player though, because you lose some of that sense of mystery and discovery (random rolls for things help that though). Still, if you don't mind that too much, you can give it a try. Just make sure you have some good DMing experience under your belt first.