Being a DM in DnD 5e can be quite difficult. But it doesn’t have to be.
So, today we will be looking at all the things necessary to pull off your first game as a DM for the group.
It’s important to understand that this will just be a beginner’s guide outlining all the necessary elements for a new dm. For a more comprehensive and in detail look at the role, consult the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
With that out of the way, let’s look at all of the necessary elements of being a good DM.
Table of Contents
1. Be a Good Player First
Before you can be a master – you must be a student. That is why it’s recommended before you start being a DM that you be a player and understand the game well. Reading through the Player’s Handbook is recommended.
I’ve yet to hear of a DM who started DM-ing first and then moved on to being a player.
This part is essential because you must first understand how the game works and the players’ mindset. If at the end of the day you can empathize with what the players are feeling then you’re a bad DM.
Guiding the experience properly is essential to having a good campaign.
The other important element when DM-ing is:
2. Develop Your World
Sure you can improvise on the spot. If you can do it convincingly then kudos to you.
But still. It’s recommended to have a fleshed-out world though up before starting your campaign. You’ll be thankful to your past self for this, and your players will be even more thankful.
Variety is the key to beauty. And you can’t have a beautiful and captivating experience if your scenes and encounters are the same for 5 – 6 sessions in a row.
That is why before you undertake being a DM in DnD 5e you should take some time to flesh out the world.
Develop the geography, the locations, the characters, and the scenes.
All of the above-mentioned elements just add more to the world, giving your players a richer experience in the process.
You have an entire world to fill with your own adventures. Include any story ideas you may have in your game world. Understand that mistakes happen, so if you overlook something it isn’t such a big deal. The most important part of world building for any tabletop RPG is to make the world feel lived in. That’s the whole point actually, that’s what keeps players coming back.
Speaking about development…
3. Gather Materials for Your Sessions
Something as simple as drawing on an A4 piece of paper can really help drive home the image and idea to the players. Be it a scene, a location, the realm, or a character. Anything helps.
Of course, not everyone is gifted in drawing. It doesn’t matter. Write it down if you can’t draw. Read it out later to your players so that they can better imagine it, and don’t be sparing on the details. A pre written adventure has the big pro of giving you enough time to develop it and expand upon it.
“A Goblin approaches you” – Is less memorable than
“A hideous Goblin bearing a wart on his nose approaches you with his blade drawn. He’s giving you a mean look.” – Which description are you most likely to remember later on?
4. To be a Good DM in DnD 5e You Must Guide the Experience
This should go without saying. The DM is the most important role in guiding the experience.
Many DMs get this wrong, they play against their players; rather than play with them.
Of course, every Dungeon Master has a different style. But there are some basic principles that each one should share.
- The player’s experience should be the most important. If your players hate you, you’re doing something wrong.
- Accept the unexpected. When being a dungeon master, no matter how thought out and meticulous your plan is; unexpected things still happen. Don’t be strict with this. Let these kinds of things happen, they’re part of the fun.
- Guide the experience, don’t drag it. The game should be a game for everyone. Don’t get lost in narration and throw your players into an encounter from time to time.
Conclusion on How to Dungeon Master in DnD 5e
That covers the basics of how to be a Dungeon Master in DnD 5e.
With DM-ing it’s the same as any skill – you get better over time. Your 1st playthrough as a DM won’t be the same as your 10th. Learn, adapt & overcome with time.
A good practice my DM does is at the end of each session he asks each player on how the session went and what improvements he’d implement for the next session. Always try to improve.