D&D: 10 Ways DMs Can Make Games More Cinematic

Dungeons and Dragons DMs have a lot to do. One of their many jobs has traditionally been to describe the gaming world and how it reacts to player actions. This can be a daunting task, especially with all the other stuff that DMs have to go through.

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A great skill to develop as a DM is knowing how to describe the events of the game in a cinematic style, replicating that seen on television or in the movies. Running a game cinematically can be more exciting for everyone and often makes DM easier with a few simple techniques. Ultimately D&D is a collaborative activity, and a great DM will use this advice alongside their players to create a game no one will forget.


ten Ask players to describe their movements in detail

Izzet mage casting a huge circular spell

A great way to start getting more exciting visuals in a game is to have each player describe in detail what happens when they use a new spell or ability. The books have good descriptions of how a spell looks when it’s cast, but players can change the aesthetic as much as they want without changing the mechanics at all.

Perhaps the Ranger’s Hunter Mark sees them making eye contact with their prey, subtly mimicking their movements, or the Sorcerer’s Eldritch explosion looks like a pencil sketch weaving its way through the field. battle.

9 Use thumbnails, cuts or flashbacks to send the camera somewhere else

Medusa D and D touching a statue

Many movies will jump from place to place to show what is happening elsewhere in the world, and there is no reason D&D stories cannot do the same. A short vignette at the start of a campaign with each player playing a secondary character can be a great way to establish a villain early on, like Darth Vader storming the Tantive IV.

Alternatively, taking short breaks to check on NPCs who are home or missing can be a fun way to create dramatic irony, as players can know what’s going on, although their characters don’t.

8 Describe everything and use reference images

D&D magic item

Making sure everyone in the world has a visual identity is a big step in making a game more cinematic. Compiling a collection of inspirational images will help a DM describe anything players may want to encounter.

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These collections are invaluable in stimulating the imagination and getting a DM to think about their campaign in a visual as well as narrative or mechanical way. Players will be all the more immersed in fiction if they can look at a picture and know exactly what the world around them looks like.

7 Describe camera movements and frame scenes through this lens

DandD characters entering a dungeon

Camera work is the foundation of cinematography, and there’s no reason it can’t be used in D&D. If a DM can begin to think of all of their descriptions through the lens of a camera, they will find that all the language of cinema is available to them, at no cost.

Describe a bird’s eye view of a large battlefield, passing players as they charge toward victory or a close zoom on the thief’s sweaty and nervous face as he desperately tries to pick a lock or disarm a trap in time.

6 Don’t be afraid to cut and move on

DandD characters by a beheaded giant

Movies rarely show every passing second in the story, for good reason. D&D parts can be trapped in following a continuous, unbroken narrative thread, even when parts of that thread can get boring.

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If the heroes make it out of the dungeon unscathed, don’t be afraid to speak to them while warming your feet by the fire, rather than describing the entire journey home. It also allows for more use of camera techniques, with the opening shots of scenes being important in setting the tone.

5 Keep stories focused and precise

DandD characters face off against a green dragon

D&D lends itself to sprawling and interconnected narratives. With a party of four to six rather than just one main character, a given campaign will likely have a lot going on at the same time. Movies tend to keep things a bit more limited and constrained, focusing on what matters to the story.

A D&D The game is always about exploring and discovering new things through the game, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a jack-of-all-trades proposition. Maintaining the focus will make the story more cohesive and direct.

4 Think about colors and patterns

DandD drow gets knocked over a well by a tieffin

Movies use color to a great effect, and an enterprising MD can do the same. Choosing a color scheme and a set of images or patterns that represent different factions or forces in the world makes it easy to create descriptions on the fly. While the Human Empire is known for its red banners and dragon images, players will know who they are dealing with the second the DM mentions either.

Setting up recurring themes like these can also be put to good use when broken. Why does this seemingly ordinary patrol of soldiers instead have shields painted with the image of a unicorn?

3 Allow bleeding between acquaintances in and out of character

D&D dragon looking into the crystal ball

It is common wisdom in D&D that knowledge of the player and knowledge of the character must be completely separated. This is often a good policy, as players can read the mods ahead of time or just know how the game works and spoil the realism.

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But sometimes in movies, characters make the right choice or the wrong choice based on the needs of the narrative rather than their own rationality. Great DMs can put this to good use, encouraging players to make choices that match the narrative the player wants to see, not just what their character would do with the information at hand.

2 Describe with the five senses

Characters D and D on a boat during a storm

The film is limited to sight and sound, but in D&D all five senses are available. DMs should consider using sensory details whenever possible, especially those less commonly used such as touch and taste. Describing the feel of the walls as an adventurer passes his hand through them or the taste in the air as he passes through a certain room can go a long way in increasing the immersion.

It’s also worth considering how different races in the game may experience the five senses, or maybe more than five, differently.

1 Invite everyone to collaborate

DandD three kobolds in a winter coat

D&D is a cooperative game, and even the DM works with his friends to tell a great story. Invite everyone around the table to describe cool actions, funny shots and pictures. This will allow everyone to feel a sense of shared belonging to the world and the story, and to keep everyone invested in a way that one DM doing all the work won’t do.

Working together will create moments and stories that no one could have told alone, which is at the heart of why most people play D&D.

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