Edited by Chrisgocountyjr, Vivek Kumar Rohra, Rob S, Sondra C and 15 others
The term Dungeon Master (DM for short) was coined by Dungeons & Dragons© in the early 70s, but has now become a catch-all term for anyone who runs a Role-Playing Game (generally however, the title DM[Dungeon Master] applies to Dungeons and Dragons, whereas GM [Game Master] refers to the "DM" of another RPG than Dungeons and Dragons.) Being a Dungeon Master sounds easy; you control everything and just tell people what they can and can't do. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. You are charged with both creating the details and challenges of the adventure while maintaining a realistic continuity of events in your dungeon. You must also have a good knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game. While a fair DM can make an enjoyable experience for everyone, a poor one can ruin any game. The following is biased toward D&D, though they are more or less general enough to be applied to any RPG.
- For first time DMs, it is actually recommended that you limit yourself and players to the options/rules ONLY from the Core Books. Not all additional books are well balanced in relation, and you will quickly find one player very overpowered compared to others. This generally is not a good thing.
- When you're just starting out, play with friends; a relaxed and familiar group of people will help everyone learn the game much more, especially when you can joke around.
- One of the most important things for a DM is the ability to think on your feet. Things will happen that you'd never expect. The players may kill the person they were supposed to get the vital information from, or they may end up going to the only section of town that you haven't detailed yet. Make it up as you go along, just be sure to jot down notes so you can incorporate them into the story later.
- Books aren't completely necessary for all players; you can play just fine without them, but at minimum the DM should have one copy of each which can be shared around the table.
- Description is really important in D&D. Unlike a movie or tv show, the players are actually just watching you. The better your descriptions, the more vivid it will be for your players, and the better your game will be. (Ex. a foul stench flows forth from the cavern entrance. Water trickles down around the outside of it's mouth, spilling into two tiny streams along the rock floor. It seems there is a grooved channel in the rock.)
- Have fun. It may seem hard, but it will get easier. Just keep having fun with it. If your players see that you're not having a good time, they won't have a good time, either.
- The bull session - Over time, you'll notice as you play with the same gamers, you'll talk a few minutes before the start of the game. It's okay to have this. It loosens up your players, gives you time to re-check that you have all that you need, and are prepared to begin, to answer any questions the players might have, or even a chance to see what everyone has been up to since your last game. Don't let it last too long, though. Say 15 to 30 minutes. Anything more, and you're burning daylight (well, sort of...).
- Name Vault - Make a name vault starting after your first game. Over time, you'll find yourself in need of names, so start keeping track of interesting ones you think of or come across. My favorite's still Ozell ( a Nice guy, he was!)
- Instead of fighting a horde of weaker monsters, fighting a few tougher monsters is sometimes more enjoyable. Fighting a horde of weaklings means you have to roll a lot of dice. Running tougher monsters means you can focus on individual strategy more.
- You aren't a good DM if you're just a referee (i.e. you always use dungeon ideas off the net ), so use these sometimes but make it your own (add your own monsters, stuff like that) but come up with dungeons on your own by using your imagination well.
- Don't "not allow" someone to do something. If you're trying to get your players to go to a certain place, don't just say "you can't go there;" instead, say something like "a lady over there says
just happened at . Would you like to check it out? You can also have them roll a passive insight to see how likely their character would want to go in the direction... in this case, set the DC (Difficulty Check) low."
- There are generally 2 types of dungeon masters: one that kills all player characters in the very first microsecond, & the kind that likes the player characters to have an adventure; You could follow one of their personalities if you want, but it's kinda healthy to follow both!
- Alignment can be a sticky situation from time to time. Remember, evil isn't stupid, it's just evil. As the DM, it's your job to be all three sides: the good, the bad, and the scenery.
- D&D can be addicting, it is a game after all. Allow yourself to rest mentally and physically from the game; maybe even a fifteen minute minute break every three hours of game play would be sufficient for most DM's. Don't overexhaust yourself or your players (this just makes everyone in bad moods, and the game becomes less enjoyable.)
- Beware of rulers, lawyers and metagamers, and don't play their game just to punish them. Come up with interesting in-game ways to deal with their characters instead.
- Know when the amount of information you give the players is too much, not enough, or just right. Keep your answers to questions concise, and don't give away too much information.
- Don't let your players dictate how things "should" be from novels or published stories. Otherwise, the one person who has read the thirty novels based in that world can try to manipulate you with knowledge only he has. In the end, the DM is the final word on what does and does not exist. However, a balance is best - work with them to incorporate some of those details so long as it does not give anyone an unreasonable advantage.
- some people might think parts of your dungeons story are silly ( monsters hatched from pumpkin farms next door, All NPCs are alien invaders) but that's their problem not yours. It is your story after all.
- Don't let yourself get bullied by other players. What you say is as good as divine law in your dungeon.
- While you may want to make your dungeon challenging, don't make it impossible. What's the point of doing it if it's going to be too difficult for the PC (Player's Character)?
- Some people really do want to learn how to play D&D, some may just be interested in what you're up to, and some will be downright mean about their opinions. As the DM, be sure to show respect to all three types of people. Doing so for the first group might net you some new gamers (to go with your new DM-ness), for the second group it might get people who eventually might want to learn how to play, and for the third it might dispel a myth. At the very least, it will show your players how to behave in those situations (as some players get overzealous from time to time).
Sources and Citations
- Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook II: Dungeon Master Guide (ISBN 0-7869-2889-1)
- Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering
- Role-Playing Mastery - By: Gary E. Gygax (ISBN 0-39951-293-4)
- Roleplaying Tips - Free Online Resource - 
Categories: Role Playing Games
Recent edits by: Teresa, MrAsheSin, Tryme2