10 mistakes to avoid as a new dungeon master

Dungeons & Dragons reigns as the best tabletop role-playing game in the world. In the wake of fantastic new product launches and the new trailer for the J&D movie, this fantastic franchise is looking better than ever. Most gamers know what it’s like to create a character and go on adventures with their friends, but it’s also rewarding to be on the other side of that DM screen.



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The DM, or Dungeon Master, creates and oversees the entire adventure, serving as narrator, controller of all enemies, and even referee or judge of the rules, among other duties. It can be a hugely rewarding experience, but newer DMs should check their strategies to make sure they don’t fall into the obvious pitfalls of being the dungeon master of a group.

ten All the adventure makes things feel forced

A skilled dungeon master will strike the right balance between keeping the story on track and maintaining enough leeway for players to help dictate story events with their decisions. It’s good to rein in players who stray too far from the story, but the chemin de fer is an equally serious problem.

Railroading occurs when the DM uses strict methods to force players to follow the storyline of the adventure, which often robs players of the chance to control their characters. The railroad can help keep the pace, it’s not worth the cost.

9 Doing a huge Homebrew campaign right away is questionable

Maybe a longtime gamer can do an extensive homebrew campaign as a DM for the first time and get away with it, but that’s the rare exception. Most new DMs have to adapt to become the Dungeon Master. They should start small and/or rely on a pre-made module first.

A new DM can lose control of their game if they try to be the next Tolkien. Instead, a new DM can intrude using a module like Curse of Strahd Where out of the abyss, making the experience more fun for everyone. Homebrews have to wait until everyone is ready.


8 Being a lawyer with total rules slows things down

Navigate Dungeons & Dragons rules is really just a matter of balance and discretion. For the most part, DMs should refer to the Dungeon Master’s Guide and follow the story from a module’s book. Enforcing the rules can also prevent players from completely breaking the game.

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New players can go overboard and become a rules advocate, micromanaging or questioning everything because they’re afraid to bend a single rule or stat. It’s more hassle than it’s worth, and some rules aren’t even worth following to the letter. The manuals are excellent, but they are not infallible.


seven Taking player creativity for granted is disappointing

Dungeon masters have every reason to expect their players to be creative and imaginative when playing through the campaign, and DMs don’t have to applaud every line of in-character dialogue. On the other hand, DMs should reward exceptional creativity rather than taking it for granted.

A grand dungeon master will note when a player says or does something amazing in-game and rewards them with inspiration or other in-game benefits. narrowly failed skill check into a successful skill check.

6 Bringing real-life drama or politics into the game ruins everything

As with most games, Dungeons & Dragons is more immersive and fun when players keep their real life and game life separate. Introducing personal dramas or real politics and debates into the game not only breaks immersion, but also pits players against each other.

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DMs should refrain from using real context when creating or running a campaign, even if they desperately need the material. It will probably backfire on you. Along the same lines, DMs should ensure that players also refrain from mixing real-life drama with their roleplaying.


5 Using the dice too often or too infrequently can distort the game

Regarding the use of dice, a new dungeon master can sabotage the game by failing to find a balance between two extremes. Ideally, the DM will intelligently balance the dice roll and simply use storytelling and logic to drive the adventure forward. However, new DMs can fumble with this.

If a new DM uses the dice too often, bad luck can lead to illogical results, such as a weak gnome easily knocking down a heavy door. If DMs use dice too infrequently, it can take away from the suspense and player skills and stats can seem irrelevant. It’s a shame if the barbarian has a great Strength modifier but can never use it.


4 Make fudged rolls obvious or abuse them

The dungeon master is given a physical screen to hide his notes and dice rolls to ensure players don’t cheat. It also means the DM can cheat for benign reasons to avoid an early TPK (total party kill) or give an unlucky player a much needed break.

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However, rigging rolls and making them obvious to players is still a classic DM mistake. Worse still, some explain that they perform the trick aloud. New DMs, if they get it wrong, can antagonize their players by hacking the game and distorting the gameplay. It can also ruin players’ confidence in the novice DM.


3 Pressuring players to play a role is not very pleasant

It’s understandable that a new DM would hope to see their players play their characters and bring them to life. It’s a role-playing game, after all. However, overly enthusiastic DMs can project this onto their players and unfairly pressure them into acting like an expert theater troupe.

A new DM should understand that some players lean more into role-playing than others, and it’s a matter of personal preference and skill. The new dungeon master must be very careful and determine who is an avid player and who is not, so that he can run the game accordingly.


2 Giving players confusing directions or objectives won’t help anyone

Crafting helpful instructions requires balance, as new DMs won’t want to make things too easy or too difficult. It’s annoying if the road ahead is too obvious, so a dungeon master can force players to make skill rolls, read maps, and solve simple puzzles to figure out where they need to go.

A new dungeon master can go too far and make the road hopelessly confusing or obscure, giving players an unnecessary challenge. This will frustrate players and hamper pacing, so new DMs should err on the side of making things simple and easy until they have more experience creating puzzles.


1 Basing the whole campaign on a single event is not a good decision

A J&D The campaign will have vital cue scenes or plot twists, and DMs need to balance open-ended exploration with players reaching those vital scenes. If he’s not careful, a new DM can accidentally create an adventure where a scene has to happen, and everything falls apart without it.

A new DM should know that if players accidentally avoid this vital scene, the DM must find a logical way to redirect players to this scene or invent a new, similar scene to continue the story. Since the game is an improvisational adventure, new Dungeon Masters shouldn’t get too attached to any particular plot point.

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