Five Things You Should Never Do as a Dungeon Master in Dungeons and Dragons

If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons then you know that it’s a fun, but kind of tough, roleplaying game to get used to since there’s a lot of reading, a lot of writing, but also a lot of fun once a person gets into it. The only person in a game of D&D that has a lot of stress placed on their shoulders constantly is the Dungeon Master, the person that is running the game and has to deal with the issues of each player and their own issues when it comes to keeping the game interesting. The characters might think they have it bad when it comes to the battles and the decisions that bring the consequences they don’t want to deal with, but the DM has a lot more on their mind on an average basis since they have to come up with the story, they have to keep engaging, and they have to make certain that they’re keeping things balanced.  With that in mind, here are five things a good DM should never do. 

5. Don’t go into the game with half a plan. 

Honestly, you can do it, but this is never a good idea since a half-baked plan is going to fall apart rather quickly depending on how your players react to the surprises you have in store for them. This is the type of game that requires a bit of technical thinking since the truth is that a good DM will have as many angle covered as possible, and others will be able to think on the fly. The latter type can keep things interesting, but only so long as they keep a healthy balance to the game, while the former need to be flexible in order to avoid boring their players. Rounding out a quest is important since some battles and situations can easily last an hour or more, while some can be over and done with thanks to a lucky dice roll. Being prepared is always a good idea. 

4. Don’t let the players dictate the game. 

I’ll amend this by saying that allowing the characters to dictate what will happen is fine when it’s a part of the plan. But if a player takes control of your game, then you’ve failed as a DM and a storyteller. It’s going to happen with stronger-willed players, as some folks can’t help it and need to be in control. But by telling a compelling story and keeping things moving at a pace that can keep people interested, it’s possible satisfy even the strongest willed players. Also, a gentle reminder to players, especially if they go off track and want to do their own thing away from the party, is sometimes necessary. 

3. Don’t target any single player. 

A good DM will not single out a player for no good reason. With that being said, two of the best reasons are 1) The character is trying to step outside the boundaries of your quest, and 2) The player is trying to cheat. At all times, it’s best to talk to the player to try and get them back in line and on track. But if a player persists and ignores the DM then it’s at the DM’s discretion when it comes to what type of response they give. Many DM’s won’t tolerate cheating and will let their dice do the talking for them, while they subtly influence the game to teach the cheating player a lesson. It’s not wise to target a player, but a cheater kind of has this coming, since they tend to disrupt the game for others. 

2. Try not to kill your party on their first outing. 

This depends quite a bit on how powerful your party is, since starting out with level 1 characters will require a bit of finesse when it comes to encounters, skill checks, and various situations. The higher the level of the party, the more a DM can throw at them with the expectation that they’ll survive. A good DM will balance their fights and encounters based on the strength of the party, since throwing an encounter at the party that they can’t survive isn’t any fun, especially if it takes one or two hits per person. 

1. Don’t take anything personally. 

It takes thick skin to play this game since it takes a while to create a character, and plenty of people get used to their creations as they begin to play. But it’s not worth taking anything personally, since in the end, it is just a game, and the dice will roll as they will. A good DM has to remember that the players aren’t out to actively destroy the scenarios they set up, and they need to remember that they’re the impartial force behind the game. In other words, it’s not worth it to get bent out of shape when a character is damaged, dies, or is otherwise affected by a dice roll.  Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, even the DM. But it doesn’t work if you’re not going to take your duties a little seriously. 

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