Last time, ON THE GOD DAMN DM, we discussed some general tips what to do if you initiated become a DM for your game. However, there is always the alternate fate that most of us have ended up with for our first time: You’re the only one able.
Being a first time DM can be a bit daunting. Rather than build one character and focus on them solely, you now have to breathe life into a whole cast and world around the players. It’ll take flexibility, focus, and at times, pure patience as your players wander aimlessly in a building because you described something with slightly more detail than the rest of the room. Here’s some things to consider for your first shot as a DM:
(Source – Dungeons and Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen by Wizards of the Coast)
Canned adventures, or an adventure book, is one of the best ways you can start as a DM. In it is the entirety that you’ll need to start an adventure including:
- Characters with personalities
- Built Encounters and more
These books do everything except for give you an exact script of what to say to your players. That’s where you come in. As a DM, you’ll essentially be the computer of the group, taking their input and reacting to each of the situations with your improvisation skills. It will guide you along, giving you pointers on the character types and possible reactions to situations, but the rest of it is flexible enough for you to work your own magic.
(Source – Revolver, starring Jason Statham)
An essential part of being a DM is going to be to be prepared for the sessions ahead. Familiarize yourself with the Dungeons Master Guide and Monster Manual, your player’s character sheets, and the material you’ll be using to play.
Nothing slows the game down like an ill-prepared DM, and you’ll need to keep the pace of the game going in order to keep your players engaged in the world you’re presenting them. To ease some aspects of it, a wonderful Redditor created a handy Dungeon Masters screen to have all the information you’ll need at hand: located HERE.
Learn, Learn, and Then Learn Some More
(Source – Critical Role, a D&D play-through with some talented people)
In the previous article, I wrote about the “Good, Bad, and Ugly” segment I do at the end of my sessions. That is one of the ways you can get direct feedback out of your players to improve yourself as a DM, especially when you’re just getting started in your DMing career.
Luckily, we’re not just limited to this slightly gimmicky end segment. From other play groups to the geek royalty of Critical Role, there are tons of sources to watch/listen/read in order to broaden your D&D skill set. Pull ideas from them, recreate or parody, or do it differently if you feel they are not doing it to your liking.
I will eventually do an article breakdown on where to get good sources for this, but here’s the quick ones I go for:
Passing the Reins
(Source – Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”… not the Ninja Turtle)
As you’ve been stuck in this role for a while, you may realize one or more of the following:
- Being a DM is awesome
- Being a DM is awful
- Being a DM is fulfilling your narcissistic soul and God Complex because YOU ARE SO GOD DAMN GOOD AT THIS!
(Still can’t help you with this one)
Either way, there will come a time where you will either need a break or desire to be in the wonderfully simple role of “Player” again. That means giving up your chair at the head of the table.
Most players that have never been a DM will feel the same apprehension you did before you jumped into the pool, and that’s okay. Use your new found skills to tutor them, teach them the ropes, and help them in anyway you can to get their feet underneath them on their journey for their first Total Party Kill (TPK).
*Or you can refer them to this super awesome blog that you found and just let it do the work for you*