Whether you’ve played Dungeons & Dragons before or not, if you’ve spent about four seconds watching Critical Role, it’s impossible to not feel a bit inspired to get your D&D on. Beginning to play D&D for the first time is a big task in and of itself, but what if you aspire something a bit different? What if you don’t just find yourself inspired to play the game? What if you look at the roles everyone on Critical Role plays, but when you watch the awesome stuff Matt Mercer gets to do you feel sort of like…
The clouds part and the heavens sing, and you know that you were born to DM. However, even though you feel that inexorable pull to the role of Dungeon Master, watching everything that Matt does in a single episode of Critical Role from the worlds he’s created, the traps, the maps, the NPCs, and everything else he does that makes us love him is super overwhelming for a first-time DM.
Well, friends, feel overwhelmed no more. Another Matthew, Matthew Colville, has Youtube series called Running the Game where he helps equip and empower newbie DMs as they prep for their first campaign. Here’s a quick intro to the series.
Running the Game is chalk full of helpful tips and tricks to ensure that the first game you run is nothing but fun, but here are five quick takeaways from the series as you begin to plan your first game as official Dungeon Master.
You’re not gonna be a DM like Matt Mercer in your first run as DM, but you’ll still have a blast.
It’s only natural to look at the amazing way that Matt runs a game, and inadvertently hold yourself to his standards, but you shouldn’t! Remember, Matt has been doing this DM thing a long time, so he and the rest of Vox Machina have had a while to get this whole D&D thing down. You and your friends are just starting out, so you’ll be learning the game together and having a blast while you do it. You’ll get to develop your own style as Dungeon Master and become the Matt Mercer of your own gaming group. Ultimately, that’s way better than trying to become a carbon copy of someone else.
You’ll need four things to get started: friends, characters, rules, and an adventure.
Gather a group of 3-4 friends and offer each of them some pre-generated characters to pick from. Creating your own character is a really fun part of D&D, but it’s time consuming and tough if you don’t know what you’re doing. Wizards of the Coast and Matthew over at Running the Game have easy ways for you to grab some pre-generated characters to help you out.
You’ll also need the rules of the game, but don’t feel like you need to go out and buy the official rule books–those can be pretty pricey and extensive reads, especially for a game you’re just trying out. Instead, head over to Wizards of the Coast to grab some quick and free rules. If you decide to really dig into D&D, then you can make the time and money investment on the books.
Finally, you’ll need an adventure. Don’t feel like you have to create your own adventure, either. You can find existing adventures all over the place, and Matthew even created a quick and easy dungeon map to help you out.
Save the adventure that comes with your D&D set for another day.
Your new D&D game will come with an adventure, and it seems only natural to use that for your first run as DM. You might want to save that for another time, however, as those campaigns often take weeks to complete. For your first few times, you want to keep your game a bit more low-key with a campaign with about five encounters. That should take your group about three hours to complete, which is a solid amount of time for your first trip into the land of adventure.
Role playing might be awkward at first.
If you and your friends are not only new to D&D but role-playing games in general, you might find that the actual act of role playing is a bit awkward and clunky at first. That’s totally normal, and will feel more normal as time goes on. One thing you can do as DM to help break the awkward ice is by offering NPCs for characters to interact with. Something as simple as interacting with a bar maid in a tavern can help your friends feel a bit less weird about the game.
You’re going to need to tweak points about your campaign both before and during the game.
Don’t be freaked out if you realize you need to fix something during planning, or even if you (or one of your friends) finds an error during play. Even well-seasoned DMs discover mistakes or inconsistencies in-game, so just expect for there to be a few bumps in the road here and there. Just stay flexible and roll with the game, and it’ll all be fine!
Of course you should definitely check out Matthew’s entire show, because this is only a handful of the amazing info offered in Running the Game. It will absolutely help you feel a bit less scared and a lot more ready to take on the amazing and fun challenge of being a DM. Just remember to go easy on yourself and enjoy the experience, and you will run a great game for your friends.
Are you a new DM? What are some challenges you’re encountering? What is some good advice you’ve received from seasoned DMs? If you’ve been a DM for a while, what advice do you have to newcomers? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Feature Image credit: Wizards of the Coast