D&D WITH ERIC THE DM #34: DM Tips!
Eric the DM
Tallyho Adventurers! Welcome back! Where have your adventures taken you since we last met? Did you get that magical item you were searching for? That looks like new armor you are wearing! Awesome!
I must say I’m surprised to see you at this haunted mansion the same time I’m here! We seem to be destined to continue running into each other! Well let’s take a break before we delve further and talk a while. I have some dried meats and fruits I will share with you while we talk.
I thought I might talk to my aspiring DMs today. Perhaps give you all a few tips on how to “setup” an adventure and a few other things. One of the most daunting things for new DM’s is setting up a story. You may have played with experienced DMs before and many seem to do it effortlessly! But don’t let this phase you. Most DM’s have had to practice their craft for some time before becoming paragons of storytelling that whisk you away to fantastic worlds each weekend. With practice you too can become a better DM with each and every adventure!
One of the main ways to become a better DM is to spend time preparing. Most of this time will be spent making your Story Arc. The best DMs tell a story that “Arcs” over several gaming sessions weaving an intricate tale that initiates on several levels simultaneously. True masters render tales that continue for entire campaigns. Where story elements, NPCs, and archrivals weave in and out of the tale at appropriate and often surprising times. This is a great goal to have but like most things in life its better to start small and work your way up to this level of storytelling. For most budding DMs a good place to start is with 3 to 5 story arcs.
Starting small like this allows you to learn the art of storytelling and to see what works and what does not. Always look to your players. How are they responding? How are they surviving? And also look to yourself. What did you like about that last adventure? What was too hard and why was it hard? Asking yourself and your players questions like these will only make you better over time!
When you sit down to make your first 3 or 5 story arc a good place to start is the beginning… and the end! You want to weave a tale that lasts for 3 to 5 sessions. So where should your players begin? And where do you want them to finish? A good way to start things is with a “hook.” Something to snag your players and pull them into your story. Start with something simple. A kidnapping in a town, a goblin raiding party attacking nearby farmlands, Protecting a diplomat on a trip to a nearby town. These are all example but there are so many more. Just use your imagination! Ones you have your hook you will have a beginning place for your story.
Now think, where do you want this story to end? Again, when you are just starting you don’t have to make it to complex. It could end with the rescuing of the kidnapped victim, the turning away of the goblin menace, or the arrival of the diplomat into the town with a bandit attack or 3 along the way. Especially if you are playing with new players these simple adventures will allow them to learn the mechanics of the game as you are learning your own.
Once you know your beginning and end its time to flesh out the middle. A tool to use this is to create an Outline. On a sheet of paper put your “hook” at the top of the page and your “resolution” at the bottom. Here is your chance to let your imagination run wild! Who is the kidnapped victim? Why are these farmers being attacked by goblins? What important mission is this diplomat on? Think about these things and write the story that comes to you! Figure out your NPCs. And don’t get to many at first! 5 or less NPCs for your first few adventures is plenty. Less is probably better. Make sure you count you villains as NPCs too! Not all of them of course but the leader of the bandits or the goblin war chief could be great NPC villains leading the others. Often having a battle punctuating each adventure is a good “go to” for your story arc.
Then you are basically done! With these simple first adventures if you write out these road maps for yourself you can move from point a to b to c and so on. The main thing I can tell all DMs is just be prepared. Know your NPC’s stats. Know your enemy’s stats. Have them written on your road map and ready.
This is a good first step. In later talks I’d be happy to talk to you about more tips for fluid story telling and advanced adventures! But I think that is enough for today. We have a haunted mansion to explore! Think about what you would like to talk about and let me know! I want to talk about what you want to talk about! Let me know in the comments below on this and all of our blogs. This is a place for you to call home and we always want you to fell welcome here! I hope to hear from you soon adventurer! OK lets go get rid of these ghosts! And as always KEEP ROLLING THOSE DICE!