New DM Advice

Szeth

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#1
So obviously I have been playing video games/rpgs for most of my life. I have even dabbled in playing some tabletop pen and paper RPGs ala DnD.

However, now I am being tasked to get a group of my friends playing together as the DM. Anyone have experience and want to share basic advice to help us get started?

Tuesday evening we have a planning session where everyone is going to finalize characters, and we will try and dive into the basic campaign that came with the starter kit.
 

Hatorade

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#2
Szeth Szeth What system?
In no particular order:

-Listen to the popular podcasts, find the one that you like. Personally I enjoy Glass Cannon Podcast, but others really like Critical Role.
-Read, and then reread the fucking manual. Know the rules to the best of your ability, in the moment if it sounds right just go with it, make note and then look it up later.
-Find what you are good at, personally I am amazing at thinking on my feet. Others are really organized, and preplan most things using notes or memory.
-Are you a role player? Do you enjoy creating characters using accents and voices? If so practice, practice, practice, in the car, in the shower, annoying the family etc.
-Stress to your players to know their fucking characters, you shouldn't have to know the paladin can smite evil for 2d8. They have one job!
-Have one volunteer keep track of all loot.
-Have one volunteer keep track of initiative order.
-Google your questions, they have all been asked before.
-If the player does something dumb and they die, let them die.
-Never under estimate the party(I always do) Go in trying to kill them and keep on, they will be fine.
-Don't over plan, think about the players can do and know they will do none of those logical options as they don't have the same information you do.
-First session almost never includes gameplay, takes a long time to make characters, longer still if only one players handbook between everyone.

More as I think of them.
 
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Fyff

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#3
Best advice - No matter how well you plan on something, your players will totally fuck it up and go a different direction. Always be ready to improvise.
 

Szeth

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#4
Thanks Hatorade. We are starting with the "Starter's Set - Lost Mines of Phandelver"

I was looking through the podcasts, but couldn't find a quick "beginner DMs tutorial" episode. I will see if Glass Cannon has one. I'm sure I will revisit this page Wednesday morning with all sorts of questions after our first day.
 

Hatorade

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#5
Good one to start with, it is fun and cohesive. Also most modules released have a blurb about starting off from LMoP. There is no really beginners guide, it is just being willing to do it, understanding it takes many...many hours of preparation. The world needs more DMs so anything I can do to help!
 

Szeth

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#6
Have you had any experience with DMs switching between campaigns? Also have you ever had one of your own characters run with the party, but have him or her be controlled by the other players? I was debating if it would be possible to do in such a way that next campaign if I weren't DM I could have a character that's not stunted compared to the others.
 

Hatorade

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#7
Have you had any experience with DMs switching between campaigns? Also have you ever had one of your own characters run with the party, but have him or her be controlled by the other players? I was debating if it would be possible to do in such a way that next campaign if I weren't DM I could have a character that's not stunted compared to the others.
Yes, but never works out.
Terrible idea, you have enough to worry about.
I assume you are doing AL stuff with a questions like that, you can use DM experience you gain DMing to level a character. If not doing AL just make a level 5 or whatever is needed when you are a PC.
 
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bigmark268

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#8
Few things I've picked up DMing for for about 10yrs on a monthly basis.

-when you plan anything just know the group will do somthing you didn't think of at all. Even if you "give them a quest" and expect and plan for 5 possible outcomes. They will think uo 12 others which make no sense. So improve the hell out of things.

-you can also make choice an illusion. You make them think Ohhh they have 3 ways to get somthing done. But no matter what or how they do it. They get the same outcome. They just don't know that. You can do that when you need them to do somthing or go somewhere. But you don't want them to feel forces to.

-another thing is focus. You'll get that friend that can't put his fucking phone away. Give em a choice, play and be courteous to other players or don't come.

- also different people tend to have different archetypes when they play. Some will want to only rp, or fight, or only explore. You get that guy that is a rules nazi, or the dude who is just a power gamer and wants chooses abilities solely to smash combat. You'll have to learn what types each of your friends are then try to cater each session to all of them. Just enough to engage each of them though.
 

Seananigans

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#9
What others have said has captured most of the basics. I DM'd a campaign (that's currently on hiatus while people get RL in order, damn people having babies) for two years, and while I had a good basis already, I poked around in a few places for tips. AngryGM was my favorite:

http://theangrygm.com/
 

Arden

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#11
Posted this a year or so ago on another thread.

Advice from 25 years of pnp GMing:

1. It’s not about winning against the players. This is #1. Too many GMs become adversarial towards the players. Always remember it’s about crafting a good story the players can immerse themselves in.


2. Fear of Death. The players need to understand failure has consequences. Don’t crush the players with insurmountable odds, but also don’t give them the win if they act haphazardly or foolishly. It’s important to make victory meaningful for the PCs, but don’t make it too difficult or the PCs will just get frustrated and give up. Finding the balance between trivial content and too difficult is key. If you err, err on the side of making it a little easier than you think it should be, because you would be surprised at how easily (and quickly) the players can fuck even the simple things up.


3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. The best story in the world doesn’t mean shit if you don’t know the rules or can’t run the session because you don’t know what’s behind the dungeon door until the players open it. It sucks when a player opens the door and everyone has to sit around waiting for the GM to figure out what the hell is in the room because this is the first time he has read the material.


4. Come up with lists of random names ahead of time. Some player’s need to know the name of every fucking merchant and inn owner they come across. If the GM has a list of ready names to pull from for unexpected namerequests it usually impresses the characters. That way, they never know if the guy behind the bar is just a filler NPC or someone vital to the story.


5. Use an initiative tracker-- a spreadsheet that lets you not only track initiative order but also combat conditions (fear, stun, blind). Playerslose confidence in a GM that can’t keep track of the initiative order.


6. The players have to be absolutely certain that you are fair and impartial. No one wants to play a campaign with a GM they feel is bending the rules or fudging die rolls to get the story to go the way he wants. That said, if you need something to happen to prevent the story from collapsing, make it happenregardless of rolls or rules. This should bepretty rare if you have constructed the campaign properly, but it happens (just never let your players know you did it).


7. Time limits can be fun tools to put pressure on the PCs. A lot of players will take a year and a half to go through a dungeon if you let them. Pressure adds to the fun, but too much pressure detracts from it. So maybe the world doesn’t end if the players don’t findrandom_religious_idle_001 in 3 days, but maybe something else undesireable happens.


8. Multiple win conditions. I’ve been using this one a lot. Instead of making a campaign simply win or lose, give the PCs multiple win goals.


9. Know what happens if the PCs fail. This one is really important. Avoid situations where failure means utter devastation, because then you will feel compelled to help the PCs succeed-- and they will be able to tell, whichwill cheapen the experience.


10. Don’t put the campaign too much on rails. The PCs want to know they are in a sandbox with a story. They want to write their own script and they don’t want to feel like they are simply watching a completely predetermined story unfold.


11. For world building, start small. It’s better to have a REALLY fleshed out small area, like a village or city and the immediatelysurrounding lands than to have a large amount of space that you only have a vague idea about.


12. Create a world that lives and breathsregardless of the PCs. Players like a sense that the story didn’t begin just because the they walked into the campaign and that the story will go on even if they all die. Avoid the hero onus. What do I mean? Players shouldn’t be “heroes” just for showing up.
 

meStevo

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#12
It's been a long time, but I used the joke-joke system to keep people in line. Slacking off and being stupid is a big pet peeve of mine when roleplaying, so if they say they're going to try and grab the big burly orc by the pussy as a joke for a quick laugh and don't say joke joke within a few seconds they are making a savings throw against herpes and whatever else they just sunk their finger into before getting punched in the face.

20 years later I still hear someone say joke joke from time to time.
 

Szeth

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#13
First day went well - everyone had fun which is our main concern.

They did think pretty narrow mindedly in combat. None ever asked if they could knock out, capture or interrogate anyone. There was also an extremely high amount of critical successes and failures which made for some quick fun ad libs.

They all got to level 2- so how we have Warlock, Cleric, Rogue, Barb, RAnger
 

Szeth

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#14
I realize that this may sound a bit hasty, and it's only table talk... but has anyone played with an LCD screen as their game board? One of my group has lots of disposable income and is talking about donating to the group.
 

Sludig

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#15
Few things I've picked up DMing for for about 10yrs on a monthly basis.

-when you plan anything just know the group will do somthing you didn't think of at all. Even if you "give them a quest" and expect and plan for 5 possible outcomes. They will think uo 12 others which make no sense. So improve the hell out of things.

-you can also make choice an illusion. You make them think Ohhh they have 3 ways to get somthing done. But no matter what or how they do it. They get the same outcome. They just don't know that. You can do that when you need them to do somthing or go somewhere. But you don't want them to feel forces to.

-another thing is focus. You'll get that friend that can't put his fucking phone away. Give em a choice, play and be courteous to other players or don't come.

- also different people tend to have different archetypes when they play. Some will want to only rp, or fight, or only explore. You get that guy that is a rules nazi, or the dude who is just a power gamer and wants chooses abilities solely to smash combat. You'll have to learn what types each of your friends are then try to cater each session to all of them. Just enough to engage each of them though.
Think like 3rd edition? monstrous/demi god campaign or something like that. Anthropormorphic squid rogue/warrior, like large size or bigger. Something like 18 arms, to simplify amount of dice rolled using like 9 oversized greatswords for 2d8 dmg and I think 1.5x str mod? So running like 9attacks of +25/20/15 ish at 2d8+x x4 damage on nat 20 +like 12d6 or so in backstab damage from some roll type skill to count the enemy as flat footed......

Something like that, been 15 years. But even in a normal setting rogue/warrior multiclass with dual wield getting multiple sneak attack dice on most attacks was funny.
 

Hatorade

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#16
I realize that this may sound a bit hasty, and it's only table talk... but has anyone played with an LCD screen as their game board? One of my group has lots of disposable income and is talking about donating to the group.
No but these days it is easier and easier, even Fantasy Grounds has a player extension for it.
 

gshurik

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#17
Try to be in sync with your players. You might want to spin an amazing yarn that you've worked on for months but your players might only be interested in having a fun and being more into the combat.

If you end up not adapting to your players you're both going to have a shitty time.

Especially true for a new set of players who aren't experienced.
 

Harshaw

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#18
If your players were like mine. Be prepared to improvise. My players would take crazy tangents from the adventure all the time. I would also prepare some side encounters and stuff that you can use as stand-alone or as a way to move them back into what you have planned.
 

Hatorade

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#19
If your players were like mine. Be prepared to improvise. My players would take crazy tangents from the adventure all the time. I would also prepare some side encounters and stuff that you can use as stand-alone or as a way to move them back into what you have planned.
If it has zero to do with the adventure and the player cannot provide motivation as to why they decided to go in a seemingly random direction and they insist on doing so I let them then I kill their character.

I put a cabin in the woods, signs everwhere that said stay out. In this case she forces her way into the house and breaks open a chest ends up in a save vs death situation. Dead. I barely acknowledged it, no fan fare just "your characters heart stops." The rest of the party did not follow so they continue with the adventure, for months the joke was "I wonder what happened to so and so" Good times.
 

Seananigans

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#20
If it has zero to do with the adventure and the player cannot provide motivation as to why they decided to go in a seemingly random direction and they insist on doing so I let them then I kill their character.

I put a cabin in the woods, signs everwhere that said stay out. In this case she forces her way into the house and breaks open a chest ends up in a save vs death situation. Dead. I barely acknowledged it, no fan fare just "your characters heart stops." The rest of the party did not follow so they continue with the adventure, for months the joke was "I wonder what happened to so and so" Good times.
People don't think the fantasy world of D&D be like it is, but it do.