​Excellent D&D Tips From A Veteran Dungeon Master

Illustration for article titled ​Excellent D&D Tips From A Veteran Dungeon Master

If you've ever been a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master, you know that it's a weighty responsibility. The dice may help decide who wins and who loses, but you and you alone are responsible for everyone's fun.

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In a great post over on reddit, writer/game designer Matt Colville, a DM of 28 years, has shared some tips on how Dungeon Masters can best serve their players, their stories, and their games.

His tips range from the practical:

Make a list, right now, of male and female names, maybe 10 of each, that you think are appropriate to your setting. Clip it to your GM screen or whatever. Any time you need a name for an NPC, just grab the next one on the list. The goal here is to be able to make up an NPC and instantly know their name. The players will go places and meet people you haven't thought of and if you can say, at the drop of a hat, "The guard's name is Fandrick," it will seem to your players that these NPCs are real people who really exist and you're not just making it all up.

to the crafty:

Listen to your players. They will come up with shit you never though of but they don't know you didn't think of it. "I bet there's a secret way in." Hey that's a good idea! "You know, I think this guy works for the bad guys." Hey that's a good idea!

to the frank:

Use a GM screen. It's ok if the evening ends in a Total Party Kill because the heroes were relentlessly stupid, but it's not ok if it ends that way because you didn't realize how tough these monsters were. Fudge the die rolls to correct your mistakes, not theirs.

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His final tip is my favorite: "Err on the side of the players." Sounds like advice that video-game developers would do well to keep in mind…

Go read the whole thing, along with the other suggestions in the thread. If you're anything like me, it'll make you want to go track down some friends and start a new D&D campaign as soon as humanly possible.

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[Via Whitson Gordon]

DISCUSSION

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I've participated a small handful of times in various D&D games. I also listened to the Penny Arcade D&D podcast they did years ago. My only complaint is with how much the game feels built around encounters. Some puzzles here and there sure, it's not all stabby stabby. But no real storytelling. No real drama, nothing really engaging characters individually. Just fight nameless minion after nameless minion and then boss fight with maybe a little banter back and forth before the fight begins. Then once its over divide the loot and we're done until next time when we do it all over again.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against combat. But combat for combats sake is often very boring to me. I've played countless PC/Console games where I fight wave after wave after wave of monsters just there to help progress my characters stats and nothing more. I don't need to be fighting to save the universe, mind you, I'm just so tired of fighting mooks. And D&D always seemed to me to be a game that should be free of those limitations.

So, I guess my question is this, have you ever played any games so radically different from the formula I mentioned earlier? And if so, would you mind sharing a bit of your experience? I love a good story.