It is time to try Dungeons & Dragons, but someone needs to lead the game. David takes a look at how to lead your group to fun and adventure with one of our favorite role playing games!
Welcome to tabletop role playing gaming! You and your friends have decided that it was time to try out Dungeons & Dragons. You all bought a couple of books to share and you’re ready to play. Your friends and you sit down at the dining room table and stare at each other, what next?
Well, one of you must be the dungeon master, you remembered that part, right? No? Never fear that’s why I’m here! No, I’m not going to be the dungeon master; I’m going to help one of you be the dungeon master. It’s not as hard as it seems. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it!
What does a dungeon master do? He tells a story in which the players are the main characters. This story can be something the DM (dungeon master) comes up with, or it could be in the form of pre-written adventures. Both are great options! What else does he do? The DM adjudicates the rules for everyone.
There are a few ways to see the rules. There are the Rules As Written (RAW), there are Rules As Intended (RAI) and there’s also the Rule of Cool. RAW is looking in the books and using them verbatim. Oftentimes, this doesn’t work out for the best for the players. Some rules can seem overly harsh, or difficult to enforce - for example encumbrance is something that most DMs ignore. RAI works out well because there are some rules that just work better when they are looked at with a DM’s and players’ eyes to work together.
Now the Rule of Cool, that’s an interesting rule. That comes into play when a character wants to do something very interesting. Like leaping off a cliff to land on a zombie’s head with his axe!
I highly recommend that beginner DMs start with prewritten adventures. You can find them written by Wizards of the Coast like the “Curse of Strahd” adventure. You also can get them from DMSGuild.com. Either are great options for the beginner and advanced DM alike.
If you are going to be the DM there are certain books you should consider. My recommendation is starting with the Dungeon Masters Guide. This book contains information about running a campaign as well as advice on creating a fun adventure for everyone. You also will find some creatures and magic items in there to help both flesh out your adventure and add creatures for your players to encounter.
Another book you should have a familiarity with is the Players Handbook. You should know what the players' characters are capable of during an adventure. I’m not saying you need to know everything from the book; but you really should have a passing understanding of each race and class. This book also lists the weapons and armor, handy to know some of the stats for during the game.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are useful books that add more options for players as well as magic items and spells that you should be aware of during a game. I like to keep them in the back of my mind in case someone brings up something they would like to use from the books. Having them on hand will make your life easier.
If you’re going to run a long campaign and feel like you need more options than you currently have, you could pick up the Monster Manual. This contains many more creatures, demons and dragons (oh my!) that you can add to any campaign to really bring some fear to your players. Using this book will open up your horizons, I personally read it every so often just to make sure I haven’t missed something that I can throw at my players.
You may want to look into getting more dice, a lot more. You’ll be rolling them often and there’s never a reason not to have more shiny click-clack math rocks. A DM’s screen is also something that is necessary to keep your rolls private; the players don’t need to see what you’re rolling. In addition you can put any information you need for the adventure behind that screen.
Hopefully some of this information helped you when it comes to being a Dungeon Master for the first time. It’s not as difficult as you think and it actually can be fun. I have faith in you! Now go out there and roll some crits for me!