Odds are you’ve played your favored game as a player and you’ve decided that it’s time to run a game of your own.  Maybe you’re wanting to start a game but none of your friends want to run one, so it’s fallen to you to run the game.  Perhaps you played when you were a kid and decided to get back into it after years away.  No matter the reason, you’ve decided to become a Dungeonmaster (or Gamemaster or Storyteller or Referee or whatever your particular favored game system chose to avoid getting a trademark lawsuit).  May the Gods have mercy on your soul.

You have just decided to devote a large amount of your free time and doing a lot of work to run a game.  You may very well spend ten or fifteen hours or maybe more prepping for a quick four hour gaming session.  It’s all down to you now.  You are in charge of knowing the rules for your game system.  You need to know everything that’s going on in the game world, from the big things like where the treasure is hidden and what exactly is guarding it to the color of the socks the waitress is wearing at the tavern and how the temple’s priest feels personally about the regent’s son.  Your players each run one character, while you run everyone else in the entire game world – as well as designing every physical aspect of that entire world.

Scared?  You should be.

But you should also have a nice feeling of anxious anticipation in your gut too.  I’m not going to lie to you.  Running a game is a lot of work.  But it’s also a lot of fun.  If you’ve ever been the host to a party or helped organize an event, it’s the same feeling.  You may be working your ass off surrounded by people who are having a good time, but you’re got the feeling of accomplishment that you are responsible for all the people around you enjoying themselves.  You get to see the hard work you put into the game pay off when your players laugh and smile at the gaming table.  And then there’s the icing on the cake…those few moments you get as a DM your party-throwing compatriots just don’t get.

Your players have been digging through dungeon after dungeon to stop the plans of Evil Archmage Whatshisname, collecting these artifacts and bringing them to the temple where Priestess Whatshername has been purifying them…and after they bring the last one to the priest, that’s when they find out that the priest is actually Evil Archmage Whatshisname!  And after the final artifact is in his possession, allowing him to take over the world, he reveals all the clues they’ve missed that would’ve pointed out that their trusted ally was actually their greatest enemy!

You will never in your life have a high as great as the one you get in those moments.

Those few moments of joy are why you run a game.  If you’ve never done it before, it can be a bit daunting.  Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there to help you plan and design your games from individual sessions to a grand, sweeping campaign world.  This blog is less an attempt to give you a list of random generators and worksheets (though there will be plenty of those), but more about hone the skills needed to keep a game running smoothly and to maximize the enjoyment for everyone at the gaming table. And yes, it is an artform. A good portion of DMing is writing as you are creating stories as well as characters. The other important (and obvious) skill is improvisational acting, to switch characters rapidly and act out what they do without a script. But the art of DMing also involves elements of engineering and architecture – both in the literal sense of creating the buildings and items the players encounter as well as more figuratively in creating art using a set of defined rules (in the real world, those rules are called “geometry” and “physics”). And of course, the art of being able to quickly and efficiently manage a group of people to get them toward a common goal. These are all skills and disciples required for being a good DM, and the best teacher is experience. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have that experience. Hopefully, you’ll be able to learn from the posts here and make your first (or five hundredth) game as enjoyable and fun as possible.

Published in: on December 4, 2010 at 4:44 PM  Leave a Comment  
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