DM Tip: How to DM

So many a DM has shared their processes and tips for this, so I am going to share my own.

Really, it boils down to one thing: run games.

Sure it seems that there is more to it than that, but for new and/or aspiring DMs, my biggest “tip” for you is to actually run games.

THAT SAID:

Most new DMs will have a great story that they want to tell and will start right out of the bullpen trying to run or write their first adventure module or campaign, starting with the end and having an idea how it begins, but having zero real plans for the in-between. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! This rarely works out.

If You have a story you want to tell, if you have a good idea for a campaign, write down some notes about it and hold on to it for later. Trust me.

What you really want to do is find a module that is already been written, known as I published adventure. There are many different sources for this. The first one, of course, are the ones published by Wizards of the Coast. They have a wonderfully large selection. Even better if you can purchase them via D&D Beyond, which is cheaper than buying them hardcover. That and it’s easier to take them with you to read.

Read through the adventure a few times, focusing on the chapter or section that your group of players will likely encounter in a session. Then do it again. And then again. Read over the stop blocks. Then do it again. Then read over the section and the stat blocks. See where I’m going with this?

If you haven’t guessed it, dungeon mastering involves an exorbitantly large amount of reading. Yes, reading. Writing will come later, but reading comes first. I’m not going to say that there aren’t dungeon masters out there that can pick up a pencil and the dungeon masters guide and the monster manual and sit down and write a module. Most of the people that can do those sorts of things have been storytelling coherent narratives for years.

Remember that Dungeons & dragons is a cooperative storytelling game. As a dungeon master, your job is to present the characters with the story that they play out. The more works that you put into the module, the more fun everyone generally has, or so my 25 years of experience with dungeon mastering has shown me. If you think differently, fight me.

In any case, back to the topic at hand: pre-published adventures. The other source that you can find these kind of adventures, even for free for those who are budget conscious, is the DMs Guild website (https://www.dmsguild.com). They have a wealth of information, to include adventures, new monsters, and short one shots, just to name a few.

Now, there our multiple reasons for running pre-published adventures to start out. The first reason is that it takes the guesswork out of most planning for sessions. All you’d have to do, as I outlined above, is read through the appropriate section a few times to make sure you understand the flow and the general nature of that section of the adventure, and roll with it at game time. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The second reason is that it exposes you to different kinds and styles of adventure writing. More specifically, it exposes you to how good adventures flow. there are several different kinds of adventures and encounters, all of which you can find in the DM’s Guide. Therefore, I’m not going to outline them here, but having a balanced and buried number of encounters throughout an adventure session is generally considered important for player and DM sanity. This of course assumes that you understand what play style your players want to engage in. Are they the kind that likes to solve puzzles? Give them a few more puzzles than normal. Are they big into role-playing? Give them opportunities to role play, both with each other and with non-player characters. Are they really into kicking down doors and killing monsters and breaking people’s stuff? Give them those Sweet, sweet combat encounters where they can shine. But notice that I’m not saying to give them all one thing or another. People get bored with monotony. Give them a variety still. It’s kind of like your parents telling you that you can’t just eat the main entree, but you have to eat your vegetables. It’s good for a player to have a variety.

The last reason is that, especially for time conscious Dungeon Masters, there’s a lot less work put into preparing your campaign session. I know I’ve touched on this with both of the previous reasons but it cannot be stressed enough how much life can get in the way of session planning. I’ve seen websites, particularly one whose name escapes me for the moment, that posted a how-to guide on Adventure riding and campaign planning in 30 minutes. That is wonderful for experienced dungeon masters, but terrible for new ones. Why, you may ask? because if you don’t have the foundational skill set, one of which is just experience, a lot of that campaign writing counsel is not going to be much use.

The last tip I am going to share for DMing is to actually read the DMs Guide and Player’s Handbook. Now, you don’t have to read it cover to cover, either of them. But you should be at least passingly familiar with the various rules regarding combat and movement and the individual classes and what their abilities are. You don’t even have to read it all at once. These two resources are essential.

Well, those are my tips for Dungeon Mastering for today. I’ll have more tips next week.

Have any comments? Leave them below!

Welcome to DMing…

Tuesday Adult D&D Night

This group is probably the furthest along in any of my campaigns, Sundays aside (mostly because they are tooling around with new characters after finishing Avernus, Lost Laboratory of Kwalish, and then Tomb of Horrors).

They are playing a campaign based on some magical items that I found in an old 2e sourcebook on the Forgotten Realms nation of Netheril: the Nether Scrolls.

Long story short, they sold a magical item that they needed to get into another area of the first place they had explored that began the campaign, which I placed below Old Owl Well.

The party is 6th level and found, via an informer, the man they needed to find was currently residing in Calimshan, particularly in Calimport. Unfortunately, there were no ships in Waterdeep that were traveling directly to Calimport, and therefore had to take a ship to the nearest port, which ended up being the city of Memnon, the city directly north of Calimport, connected by the most southernly section of the Trade Way.

The party found that it would be a four month trip, and so settled in as sailors and guards for the small shipping sailing ship, with the kobold wizard borrowing one of the eponymous Nether Scrolls from their wizard friend Iul, still studying inside the bag of lodging.

About a month into the trip, the ship was attacked by a group of 8 scags (water-dwelling trolls), which the rogue (who was introduced as the ship’s navigator) helped defeat by club hauling the ship to throw off the trolls from the edge of the ship.

After that encounter, the party’s craft watched in the distance as another ship was torn apart by something with large tentacles. The ship opened their sales, and ran for all their worth.

A time later, the lookout spotted an island that appeared to be the same as was on a treasure map that was purchased by the party’s kobold wizard. Going ashore, the party found the treasure, keeping it from the ship’s captain.

Next was the run-in with the kraken priest, demanding the party sacrifice their most treasured items, or be destroyed. The cleric/warlock (we call her a “spicy cleric”) sacrificed a higher level spell scroll, and with the dragonborn sorcerer’s intimidating speech, the kraken priest takes the sacrifice and leaves…for now.

Having seen much, the party’s ship came across a 40′ diameter tree sticking out of the water! Not on any kind of island, but in the middle of the ocean, did they find this tree, its trunk extended as far below the surface as they could see. It had beautiful foliage with some sort of delicious-looking fruit. The party approached the tree, curious as to its origins.

After watching the kobold wizard eat of the tree with seemiy no I’ll effect (or rather, a seemingly good effect, similar to a goodberry), The barbarian, the spicy cleric, and the wizard began gathering the fruit. Simply watched on wary of the strange tree. Upon picking the fruit, the cleric/warlock felt something devastatingly wrong: she lost her connection to her deity. All of her cleric abilities ceased to function. The wizard, angry for his friend, punched the tree causing some sort of curse to befall him.

The three of those who had picked the fruit, began to get more than a little worried. The cleric especially was terrified at what just happened. The Paladin of the group thought on the situation and cast ceremony to allow the cleric to atone for what was clearly an offense to her goddess. The cleric, realizing that this tree must have been sacred to her goddess was determined to follow the counsel of the paladin, which included two days of constant prayer and fasting, both day and night for 48 hours. All three of them began, with the wizard and barbarian both failing, never having had to do this activity before.

After the first day, the cleric determined to complete her atonement, the party spotted a ship in the distance. Only after it was close did they see the flag: the Jolly Roger. They chose to fight instead of running, and found themselves faced with the largest ship they’d seen. It was a massive galleon with a huge crew, and at least 30 ballista pointed their direction. After several attempts by the wizard to destroy the opposing ship with spells like fireball, counterspelled by the pirate ship’s wizard, the party’s new rogue friend (the ship navigator) attempted to parlay, without success.

Seeing no recourse, the party surrendered, and were placed in the brig, the cleric continuing her atonement without ceasing. The barbarian, seeing a single opportunity, placed the bag of lodging down his pants, hoping against hope that they could at least keep that from the pirates and keep their other friends inside safe.

After almost 2 weeks, they felt the ship stop. they were locked into hand and foot medicals chained together between them, other prisoners in the ship’s hold included, all together some 100 people. Seeing an opportunity,

Upon being led out of the hold, the party found themselves in a port city with a hot sun beating upon them above. Yes, they were in Memnon, their destination, but instead of as adventuring, they found themselves headed for the slave market.

Will they escape their circumstances? Will the party recover their gear and get revenge on the pirates that had them enslaved? Only time will tell…

This is the troll I painted yesterday. I was very happy how it turned out, except its warts. I’m thinking of dry brushing them darker. Give me your thoughts in the comments below!

Miniature Painting

So I said that I will, on occasion, do a post and add a picture of a miniature that I have painted. I have a considerable amount of time on my hands, so doing one or two miniatures a week is not that difficult. In fact, I often sit down and complete an entire miniature in a few hours.

Fun times, I know. It relaxes me.

That said, the barbarian that I painted previously was, in my humble opinion, one of my absolute favorite and best works yet. There’s only one piece of work that I enjoyed having completed more than that: a human paladin I did a few months ago in the middle of the quarantine.

This particular mini took considerable amount of time to accomplish and was a pewter mini. I put a considerable amount of detail into the shield and the sword, which I hope you’ve noticed and appreciate. For those interested, I used a dark shader to fill in the gaps in details.

And yes, I know that I did not paint the base. I’m getting to that. Eventually.

Front
Rear

Until tomorrow!

Sunday Adventurers League

So our heroes continue to plumb the depths of Undermountain, the massive dungeon that lies below the Yawning Portal, beneath the city of Waterdeep.

Having barely defeating the dreaded Aboleth, our heroes continue on their journey below, coming to the level containing Wyllowwood. After finding a docking port, with an oddly intact rowboat tied up, two party members noticed the boat…moving.

Assuming something sinister, the party’s kenku rogue took a shot at the boat, which roared and revealed itself to be an overly large mimic! After defeating said mimic, with no small help from the party’s dwarven barbarian, the party continued onwards, reaching a large stone bridge, and finding the oddest sight: a large green dragon (usually evil creatures) with a sword embedded in its head. The creature was found to be of good character and good conversation.

The dragon told its story and gave the party directions to one of their goals: reaching an enemy creature to retrieve the second of a pair of boots of elvenkind. Having defeated the werebat goblin that had it in its possession (the goblin being of a mean and evil disposition, and having attacked them first), the party traveled to the next area, which took them two levels below their current location.

The party, after much long travel, heard of clinging and banging as if metal on stone coming from the east. The kenku rogue scouted ahead, finding evidence of stone giants. The party followed and spoke to the first stone giant they met, convincing him that they were no threat. The stone giant told of the laws of being tormented by some unknown entity.

Not soon afterwards, the party experienced this trickery and found that the culprit was nothing more than a fairy dragon named Otto. Convincing the fairy dragon to cease tormenting the poor stone giants, The party found that the fairy dragon needed assistance in hunting a homunculus. Party agreed to go to the nearby underground fortress to assist in destroying a magical item.

During their search of the castle, the party came across a stone portal, which they have realized transports them to other parts of the dungeon. The party, having figured out the key to opening the portal (solving a riddle), Entered into the portal for getting their commitment to the fairy dragon.

Party found an elaborate room, and traveled onwards discovering not much more than secret doors and traps.

One such room held a hole that led down to the next level, containing several incorporeal, and likely dangerous, beings. Deciding that discretion is the better part of our, the party left that location and continued on in their search.

Traveling further, the party ran into several yugoloths, a mezzoloth and a nycanoloth. The battle was hard fought but the party scraped by, defeating their foes. Resting and licking their wounds, the party decided to rest, thus ending our session, the party advancing to the 8th experience level.

Will they be able to find their way further down? It is too soon to tell. Join us next week to see where the party ends up!

About The Blog

So, I’ve tried this sort of thing a number of times, without success. This time, I will be following through (I tell myself!).

Hey, and welcome to my blog. I know it says “daily,” but new content will only come 6 days a week (a guy has to get a break) with two updates on Sundays twice a month.

The whole reason for this blog is to showcase my various D&D campaigns that I run. There will be overlap as I am running the same campaign twice (Tuesdays and my monthly game), but the players make it interestingly different, so it will be two vastly different campaigns.

My campaigns are as follows:

1) Twice a month: my home/family campaign, an episodic showcase of converted old Dungeon Magazine titles. Lots of fun.

2) Once a month, my Monthly game: close friends (or some new and great players that I want to get to know better), as of this writing, just beginning my personally written campaign. Great time had by all.

3) Weekly on Tuesdays, my weekly Local Game Store game. Same campaign as my monthly game, but they’ve been playing it longer. Good group and good fun.

4) My weekly Sunday Adventurers League game run at the same Local Game Store. Interesting group. Currently running Dungeon of the Mad Mage while we await Season 10 Adventurers League to drop. The new Campaign will begin the first Sunday of October. Looking forward to it!

5) A weekly Discord game with some cool folks; campaign is to save the world within 5 years. It’s going well, albeit slowly. Figure Discord and 2 hours a week to play. Still fun.

In any case, these are mostly what I will write about. Game summary and thoughts about the direction of the various campaigns. Additionally, I will write about my campaign writing woes, my personal stuff when I have writer’s block, and showcase my poor attempts at painting miniatures.

Note that I sometimes dabble in Battletech and Warhammer 40K, so you may get some miniature photos of those as well. Depends on my mood and if anyone reads this obscure corner of the Internet cares to see it. We’ll see.

So, all that said, welcome to The Daily Dungeon Master!