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Advice for beginning Game Masters / Dungeon Masters

by admin published Jun 02, 2015 01:35 AM, last modified Aug 17, 2015 07:50 PM
Posted by Hawke at Oct 06, 2014 05:41 PM - missed a request for advice from an aspiring new DM at , so I thought I would replicate that here. As many other sites have done, you could put out a new article daily on advice for running games, but hopefully this is useful to some. Happy Gaming!
"Hi me and a couple of friends are about to start playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time me personally i have played dnd from the adventurers perspective but this time am being the DM any advice for this Newbie DM"

Sorry I didn't see this comment sooner. Hope your group is going well. Especially when starting out, try not to let the game get stuck on rules issues, try to keep the emphasis on the story focus, the proficiency with rules as a GM/DM will come with practice, but nothing kills the flow of the game, and the "suspension of disbelief" like either arguing over rules, or having to wade through several books to find the rule.

If it is not a life/death situation, make a note of the rule in question (post or note in your log), make a temporary ruling that you believe fits best for the story situation, and then move on, explaining you will double check the ruling after the session is over. If you were in error and find a published rule that contradicts your in-game ruling, then decide whether you want to make your decision a "house rule" going forward, or if you want to follow the published ruling. Don't be afraid to admit you were wrong (if you were). Following this approach a few times, the players will at least trust that you can admit if/when you make a mistake, and that helps the overall trust between the players and GM.It is important as a GM/DM to become proficient with the rules, but it is not the only aspect, and if you take this approach, hopefully they will be understanding that you are still in a learning curve phase.

If it is a life and death situation, and a PC dies because of your ruling, and it turns out your ruling was wrong, use story to try to fix the mistake rather than just "ooops, well, that never happened".

Instead meet with the player of the deceased or maimed (or other situation) character, and work out an interesting storyline to resurrect or in some other way get the PC back into the game. Maybe he wasn't turned to ash from the fireball after all, instead he miscast and accidentally slipped into a portal to the ethereal plane that was in a trapdoor that was triggered by the powerful spell, and by the time he found his way back, the party was long gone. There are infinite possibilities.

You could just take the easy way out and just implement deus ex machina, providing an NPC suddenly available that can resurrect (or other appropriate action), and since it was the GM's mistake, no loss of level or other issues as would normally be the case due to the favor of some deity or other, but it isbe a lot more fun to come up with something more story-based to have the party come across hints of the PC still being alive, and then suddenly show up, without the players expecting it. They will probably be expecting the player has a new character they will meet instead, won't they be surprised to see their old compatriot! What a tale that PC must have to tell.

Just some thoughts on the question.

There are so many other areas and topics to address when starting out, for example trying to find that balance between the Monty Haul GM versus the Killer GM.

Here are some fun, humorous, but useful links.

See descriptions of GM stereotypes here:

and also Wil Wheaton's advice:[…]/wil-wheatons-role-playing-dickery

Most importantly, above all, it is about everyone just having fun!

Happy Gaming!

-Hawke Robinson



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