Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reverse Dungeoneering #14 - 101 DM Tips (Part 5)

41) The term Dungeon Master doesn't need to have a strict definition.
The average player probably assumes that the title Dungeon Master is a very specific thing. This is the guy that runs the show. Except what if he's not? What if there are two Dungeon Masters with different duties or what if every player at the table had a different task to take care of for the group? What if you're playing strictly by random generated charts and there isn't a Dungeon Master to speak of? What this really comes down to is that many Dungeon Masters are afraid to give up their control. They're afraid to give up their power as if they're the head of a group. The term Dungeon Master is less rigid than some can imagine.

42) You need to experience the game first.
Experience is extremely important as a Dungeon Master. For example, a DM that has only played or studied one particular class, even if they've been playing for years, isn't going to have as much knowledge of the game compared to a player that reads up on or has played every class and race. I'm not implying that the more knowledgeable player is necessarily a superior DM but it helps to experience as many aspects of the game as you possibly can or else you might misunderstand something.

43) Keep everyone involved.
Try not to setup scenarios that leave out certain members of the group. You don't want your players sitting around and twiddling their thumbs wondering why they even showed up if they can't play the game as well. If you have an important reason for why certain members might be separated from one another then maybe think about splitting up your usual game night so those players can meet at different times.

44) Give them something to hate.
I'm talking about two things when I say this (it's technically more than just these two but we don't have all day so I'm cutting this short just like every other tip). First, you don't want all of your NPCs to be wonderful people that the players want to become best buds with because that isn't very interesting. People are more diverse than that. Second, you want to give them something tangible to hate that they'll be talking about for years. For example, you know how everyone still talks about the Water Temples from the Legend of Zelda games or the boss fight in Kingdom Hearts 2 with Sephiroth? Gamers love facing a challenge and by putting that out there for them, you give them something that they love to hate and will always remember.

45) Give them something to fight for.
Goals are a defining feature of quests and characters. Why does this character do what he or she does? What does this quest accomplish? Don't forget that there needs to be a reason or at least a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow or your players aren't going to care.

46) Learn to experiment.
Have you ever made your own custom monster for a campaign or played around with changing the rules for combat for a specific fight? You should. You need to be tinkering with the system or you might be missing out on some incredible ideas that your group might enjoy.

47) Learn what you shouldn't experiment with.
Some aspects of the rules or the way the classes are defined is rather vital to the way the game works. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Make sure to understand the system before you try and break it.

48) Learn what was left out.
If it doesn't exist in the game then there might be a reason for it. Think long and hard before adding something into the game's system. The fact that a team of game designers that have worked on a system for years and studied specific principles of math can still make mistakes in their system proves to me that a single person that has a bright idea in the middle of the night might not be the best candidate for adding something to the game.

49) Hand out enough information.
You are the five senses for your players (technically there are more than five but that's not the point). They don't actually exist in your game world so you have to give them enough information to go on. One of the struggles a DM faces is that you have to paint the picture that's in your head for everyone at the table to see and their brains are going to misinterpret many of the things that you say. All you can do is try your best and refrain from deceiving your players as that will betray their trust.

50) Don't split the party.
Many players speak of the dangers that come from splitting the party but what rarely gets mentioned is the most important reason a Dungeon Master should never split the party: time. If the party is split then that's time that is wasted for at least half the group. They're sitting out of the game and not able to actually play. Do everything in your power to keep the group together even if it seems like something mundane.


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