I’ve been playing DnD weekly, without much interruption, for close to 10 years now.
Pathfinder, 5th Edition, Whitewolf, Dresden Files, Multiverse, Shadowrun, Midgard, The FATE system… you name it, I have tried it. And if not, I’ve probably heard about it.
But, until a few short weeks ago, I have never been the Dungeon Master.
Being a player character has its perks. You only have one character to worry about. The prep time is minimal. And, unless you are just one of those players with no manners whatsoever, its not your fault if the plot falls apart, or if someone isn’t having a good time.
Being a DM is a lot of work. I knew this going into it. But boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
My brother is our default DM. He has been doing it forever and he is amazing at it… to the point that trying to DM for him is incredibly intimidating.
But he is busy with life and school and all that grown up stuff, so he asked if I would run something. Hesitantly, I told him I would run a pre written module. No way was I going to try and write something of my own, as he had done for us many times. I didn’t have the confidence for that.
He said that was fine. So I chose Dragon Heist. It is a 5th edition level 1-5 module set in the iconic city of Waterdeep. This is a setting and system I was really familiar with.
I chose players who were all less experienced than me, including two complete noobs, to boost my self confidence.
Then I started reading.
Did you know that modules are basically just an outline? They don’t answer all the questions. They don’t tell you what to do in every possible scenario your players might get themselves into.
It’s just an outline.
Everything else is up to you to either:
- have enough forethought be able to prep for what they chose to do, or
- make up on the fly.
Our first sessions were a complete wakeup call for me. I was in charge. I set the DCs if they wanted to do something “off script”. I made up the personality of the random guy at the bar they decided to talk to. I pulled a name out of my butt when a non player character said that they changed their name but the book didn’t say what their name used to be…
It all sounds like little stuff, sure. But there are hundreds of those tiny decisions that you have to make in a 3 hour session. HUNDREDS.
After a bit, the knowledge and experience I had as a player started to kick in. I was able to pull from my gaming history to make quick decisions and give the characters the freedom to do off the wall things. It started to feel a bit organic. A bit less intimidating.
Because, in the end, it’s about having fun. And, lets face it, being the bad guys can be REALLY fun.
Knowing all the answers and watching your players slowly figure it out can be REALLY fun.
Playing different characters every week, mixing up your experience, keeping it fresh… that can also be REALLY fun.
I see so many people on local groups and forums looking for DMs because all their friends want to play but no one feels confident enough to run the game… so they never get a game off the ground at all. Its incredibly unfortunate.
The resources, everything you need, can be found online. And if someone at your table wants to give you a hard time for having to look up a rule or makes fun of you for tripping up, that’s not someone you want to play with anyway.
So, if you have played DnD, but never run, I suggest giving it a go. Pick a module. Run it in a way that is fun for you. Your fun will be contagious, and you will be successful.