Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reverse Dungeoneering #12 - 101 DM Tips (Part 3)

21) Utilize setting.
Don't just make the setting a backdrop. Utilize the atmosphere a setting can bring, utilize the environment of that setting to make combat more interesting, and utilize how that setting might affect the story. Brainstorming what that setting offers you is part of the fun and can really shape the experience for your players.

22) Start off with a bang.
There are a million ways to go about this such as throwing the characters right in the middle of a major event, creating confusion by starting things unexpectedly, or maybe even beginning things with an interesting fight that sets up things to come. You want their attention and the rest of the campaign will have plenty of time for "build up" of story events but it's essential to get them hooked right out of the gate.

23) The players are your friends.
I realize that this might seem like a Captain Obvious moment but it's vital to understand that these players are your friends. They're playing, critiquing, joking, and suggesting because they care. At the end of the day, it's just a game. They're what's truly important.

24) Don't play favorites.
Players may not always say it but they aren't exactly happy when one player gets more attention, rewards, or bonuses over any other player. The common example is the "DM's girlfriend/boyfriend scenario" that I'm sure many may have faced themselves. Don't be that guy or girl. I realize that it's sometimes difficult to recognize when you're doing this as you will have a different perspective than the other players but try to avoid this.

25) No one cares how awesome your NPC is.
This isn't show and tell where you try to impress your players with how crazy powerful or awesome a character you've made is. Your players are going to be secretly rolling their eyes and ultimately just wanting to move on so they can do what they set out to do: play the game.

26) Learn what your group enjoys.
There are many different things that players enjoy and/or expect in a game of D&D. Some players just want to stab goblins, some want to explore fantastical locations, some want to roleplay interesting scenarios, and some just want to hang out. Learn what your players enjoy and try to accommodate.

27) Learn the rules.
This might seem like another obvious statement but it needs to be considered. Without rules then it's less of a game where everyone has expectations of what they can and can't do and more of a free-thought experiment where someone passes the green or red light depending on arbitrary reasons. Even a completely houseruled game by its definition has rules. Try to make sure everyone is on the same page and remember that it's okay to make mistakes or change up the rules on the fly for the sake of fun.

28) Don't be afraid to give direction.
There are times the players just need a hint of where to go or what to do and they're able to escape the horrible moment known as being stuck. You don't want to give them this guidance without their consent as some players prefer the time to ponder and solve things for themselves but you don't want to leave them in the dark either.

29) Avoid giving too many options.
There is actually an opposite of railroading and this usually comes from Dungeon Masters who have a fondness toward sandbox play. Many game developers have even missed the memo that by creating too many options you will inevitably lose focus. Learn when to apply the handbrake or narrow the options or your players may never actually accomplish anything or may even feel lost.

30) Don't let your preferences ruin the fun for others.
This message has been sprinkled about in previous entries but don't let your own preferences ruin the fun for others. Being a DM can be a very selfless act and that needs to be realized before stepping up to bat. You're going to be doing a lot of work in the hopes of bringing fun to an entire table of people that may not appreciate a single thing you do. Don't make this about you and don't expect that what you deem as fun to be fun for everyone else. Fun is subjective.


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