View Full Version : Tips for a beginner DM (4th Edition)

2010-10-19, 06:12 AM
Hey everyone Ive recently gained interest in D&D and ive started a small group of friends on it. Im going to DM, my own homebrew campaign and ive had no prior experience. Anyone got any tips that could help? thanks

2010-10-19, 06:16 AM
Do you have a starter set? What rules system are you planning on using?

There's plenty of generic advice, but more information is better, as it gives a baseline.

Anyway, things to do.

Don't try too hard. You won't necessarily know the rules, or run the first session very well. This is not a bad thing.

Get some experience. There are plenty of videos and podcasts to watch of people actually gaming. Their style may not suit yours, but it won't hurt to watch.

Don't try to change the rules first thing. Resist the temptation and wait.

2010-10-19, 06:27 AM
More general system suggestions:

Determine what sort of game you intend, and make sure your players expect the same thing.

Light hearted humorous fantasy.

Heavy RP court intrigue.

Kick in the door chain dungeon crawl.

etc. Many styles can be done with DnD, many of them perfectly well, but if your party is expecting kick in the door and you drop them in a heavy court intrigue plot that involves more moral quandaries and politics than they were expecting, there will be issues.

Heck, even the choice between a black and white morality or black and grey can make a large difference in player enjoyment (if yer doin 3.5, and a player's a paladin, probably wanna stick to black and white unless the folks involved agree on where the fall line should be, for example).

Think about interesting encounters. 6 kobolds in a room, not too interesting. 2 kobolds in a room, with 2 more on ledges with bows, and another crawling through a small tunnel they use to get round easily, more intricate, interesting, and harder to judge partykill potential. Hmmm, last part's not a plus, but it's interesting!

2010-10-19, 06:35 AM
1. Determine what kind of players you have. Some want to be cool like in the movies and always play Paladins dual wielding Katanas. Some want to optimize and always play the most powerful thing they can get their hands on. Some want to roleplay and build their character around the rp concept. Each kind of player is motivated by different things, has fun with different things, and can handle a different challenge.

2. Plan some stuff in advance, especially enemy statblocks. But don't be surprised when the players do something completely random. Play along and give them #3.

3. Always give a choice, or the illusion of choice.

4. Reward your players. Give them XP and shiney stuff. Give them acknowledgment by the NPCs. We roleplay fantasy heroes for a reason.

5. Don't make it gut wrenchingly difficult to traverse more then five feet without facing a TPK or invulnerable NPC blockade. Also don't make the world a cakewalk sandbox where the party can take everything by force and with ease.

6. Encourage character growth by providing situations where the player can RP out some flaw out of his character, or introduce a new one etc.

2010-10-19, 06:37 AM
Obligatory thread is obligatory. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=76474)

Apart from that: be prepared to improvise a lot. Players will inevitably do the unexpected and very often you have to think something up on the spot. Having well NPC's with well established personalities and goals help in such situations, since it gives you the idea, how should they react to PC's actions.
It is also helpful to write every important thing (even things like, PC's insulting someone or making someone look like an idiot), that happened during the game, down - the world is more beliveble, if the playters see consequences of their choices.

2010-10-19, 07:43 AM
1) Do not expect to start your lovechild campaign on the first session. You are not ready and neither are your players.

2) Do not be afraid to rail-road, in the sense that you limit the scope of the adventure. Especially early on when you are still learning to DM. The more comfortable you get, the more freedom they can have.

3) You can obfuscate rail-roading. If you prepare a bunch of stat blocks and ideas for a dungeon but your players decide they want to do something entirely different, the only thing that you need to change is the scenery.
The players do not know what you had in store for them so they will not know that their choice was only truly meaningful for themselves.

4) Talk to the players about what kind of game they want and want kind of game you feel like running. Reach an understanding about this before you start. Keep this open for discussion as both you and the players will probably change their minds.

5) Prepare a lot of statblocks.
You will probably be making some for stuff you specifically want your players to interact with. If you turn more or less every idea for an NPC you get into a statblock, when your players do unexpected stuff and you want to see where it goes, you will be prepared.
Eventually you will have a library of NPCs you can use to flesh out an ad hoc story or side-quest or even a sandbox-game.

6) Have your players make the characters together. Make them figure out how they know each other. If they have trouble. Throw them something mundane or weird to start out with. Family ties often work well, so does working for the same circus.

2010-10-19, 07:46 AM
Yeah, start it simple. Maybe even just a dungeon with some monsters and treasures, so you all can get used to the rules. After that, start with short story arcs and get some experience how th stuff with NPCs and quests work.
After four or five sessions of that, it will be much more easier to get an actual ongoing campaign started and running.

2010-10-19, 07:53 AM
Obligatory thread is obligatory. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=76474)

You missed a spot. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=171599)

2010-10-19, 07:55 AM
Though a great number of the tips in the second thread are actually really bad ideas.

2010-10-19, 08:16 AM
I'd also like to point out that if you have experienced players let them know you're a new DM.

Many experienced players will go off the beaten trail and some just plain love avoiding the story. If they know that you're still new and can't work with this they may be nicer to you.

2010-10-23, 01:09 AM
Thanks for the tips. were all beginners so we need all the help we can get, ive read through the players handbook and am starting on the DM's book.