Unqualified Experts #13: Tips for Being a Better DM

Being a good player can be difficult at times. So can being a Dungeon Master. Whether you’re brand new to running a campaign or a long-time veteran, here are some tips that can help you up your game-running skills and create even better and more exciting adventure for everyone at the table.

We paint some broad strokes in this article of what you can expect from the video, where we do a deep dive into multiple specific examples for each, ideas to copy/use for your own campaigns, and how to think in a certain way that produces even more interesting situations, characters, and more.

So please pull up a chair, you favorite snack foods, hit that play button and enjoy!

We hope you enjoy our Be a Better DM YouTube video.

Set Expectations Early On

This sounds so simple but in too many campaigns people just assume they are all on the same page without explicitly talking about multiple issues until they come up. Setting up the rules, getting questions from the players early, and helping them understand what’s coming up is crucial if you want a smooth and fun gaming experience for everyone.

Expectations you should talk about include:

  • What’s 100% off-topic, no-go for you
  • What type of campaign is it?
  • What rule changes or home rules are you bringing into the campaign?
  • What is the general tone/setting?
  • Are there important points that players need to know
  • Is this hard and fast rule system or

Broad Strokes Vs. Specific Details

Planning and improv are both important parts of a good DM skillset. How do you balance these two things? How do you give player agency but also set up a world and campaign that encourages players down a certain route? Figuring out when to use specific details versus when to keep things broad is a key part of making a campaign pop.

“Floating Method”

Shane’s a big fan of the floating method. He’ll know about a character attached to a quest attached to an item, and while that all exists, he’s very loose on where this might appear, when characters might run into it, or when it comes into the campaign. He knows some city has a strange and very memorable celebration, but he didn’t even know which of the cities on the world map it was until a certain point in the campaign felt right.

An interesting take on how to make this work as a DM.

Memorable NPCs Make the Campaign

Create an interesting villain who isn’t a cartoon character. Make NPCs with weird quirks that are hard to forget. A funny shopkeeper, the most interesting of villains, a dragon known as “the crafty” who takes most of the party’s gold under the guise of a dragon hunter who hates “The Crafty” and feeds them false information.

When they realized the dragon they were hunting was the one who fed them false information…it was pretty hilarious.

Read the Table

This is a skill that just takes time. Understanding the style of players you have, how much you can expose them to different types of gaming, figuring out what works and what doesn’t – these are all things that take time. Little tweaks make a really big difference when you look at the table, who is playing, and figure out how to balance introducing new things from the campaign versus hitting their strongpoints.

In Conclusion

These tips work whether you’re running a 5E campaign, Pathfinder, or something else completely. By taking this advice to heart, practicing, and adjusting your style as you get more and more experience running campaigns. We hope this video gives you some awesome tips and information and you let us know in the YouTube comments your favorite tips or info!

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