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D&D – DM Tips
August 13, 2017Posted by on
How to be a Better Dungeon Master
Having just finished one campaign and preparing to start another one, I felt that it was time to review my weaknesses as a Dungeon Master. Thanks to an excellent post on “The Angry GM” site, and a candid review of my own DM style by Tim, a former player, I have compiled this list that I intend to re-read before and after each gaming session.
1) Pre-read enough to make the game day run smoothly.
2) Have figures set aside for upcoming encounters.
3) Have monster stats printed out for the inevitable encounter.
RUNNING THE GAME
Running a D&D game is a storytelling craft on top of die rolls, which makes the DM chair the most difficult but often most entertaining of the game.
There’s two aspects of the game to manage, the character experience, and the player experience. All the players need their characters to have their moment to shine.
Provide variety in how NPCs/monsters interact with PCs. The encounters need not always be a fight to the death.
Always appeal to the players’ sense of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound when narrating.
Begin and end each players turn with narration.
Each turn follows a simple process.
- The GM Transitions Into the Players’ Turn
- The Player Asks a Question or Declares an Action
- The Action is Resolved
- The GM Describes and Applies the Results
- The GM Transitions Out of the Players’ Turn
After every transition you need a bit of scene setting. Even if it’s just a single sentence. In fact, that’s all it should be. At the start of every turn in combat, you should say a few words (and NO MORE) about what’s going on in the scene right now, specifically to the person whose turn it is. Even if all you do is remind the player of what just happened.
The transitions out of one turn and into another meld together. The resolution of one action sets the scene for the next.
As a GM, it’s your job to bring the combat to life. To make it feel like an emergency, like a life or death situation.
At the start of every player’s turn, you need to point out where they are and what emergency is happening right now, either to them, or right near them.
In a life-or-death battle, the proper feeling for a player is near-panic. Players should feel panicked and rushed in combat because the characters are panicked and rushed in combat. When it is a player’s turn, they need to begin speaking immediately. And if not, you need to prompt them.
“What do you do? You need to decide or you’ll lose the turn to indecision.” Assume they take the Dodge action (attacks against him have disadvantage).
A GOOD EXAMPLE
GM: Alice, four goblins are charging the party. What do you do?”
Alice: I’ll run up and hit the goblin with my mace. 15.
Alice: 6 bludgeoning damage.
GM: You charge the goblin and smash it with your mace, bringing it to a stop. It’s allies are hesitating. Bob, you’ve got an opening…
GM: The goblin leaps aside, dodging your axe. He tries to dart past you to close with Dave. You get an opportunity attack. Roll it.
GM: The goblin dodges that too and dashes forward, lunging at Dave with his shortsword. Dave, what’s your AC?
GM: Ouch. He stabs you in the side for 6 piercing damage, sending you stumbling backwards while the other two goblins draw to a stop and face Alice and Bob head on. Alice, the goblin recovers his breath from your blow and thrusts his shortsword. A crit! You take 12 damage.
Alice: Damn it! I’m really hurt!
GM: The other goblin closes with Bob as he’s trying to stop the one getting past him. But… Bob sees him coming and dodges the blow. That’s a miss.
GM: The goblins range themselves in front of Alice and Bob while a third goblin is ready to strike another blow at Dave. Carol, they seem to be ignoring you. What do you?