Just a newbie dm after all

Posted on November 20, 2009 by



So this past week we had another session.  We usually play every other Wednesday, which is really not a lot of gaming time a year if you think about it.  26 times a year, give or take, remove a few for those days that you just can’t make it and what?  We’re looking at not too many sessions since the release of 4e.

Having said that, this past session reminded me that I have much to learn before I’m one of these dm’s that can run a game with his eyes closed.  I made some newbie mistakes and here now I’m going to highlight them so you keep them in mind for your games, in case you are as new as me:

Read, then re-read the monsters:  4e monsters have great looking stat blocks.  They are easy to read, and with tools such as the monster builder and compendium, they are easy to modify as well.  You need to study the stat block and make a note, or memorize, stuff that the monster automatically has.  For example, auras.  I ran a beholder this week, and he has an aura 5.  I kept forgetting to apply the aura every time someone’s turn came up.  He also doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from his rays.  Well guess what, in my game he did because I missed that part of the stat block.  I effectively gimped severely what should be a major threat.  Newbie mistakes, plain and simple.  Guilty as charged.

Rules familiarity:  While I’m not advocating becoming a walking encyclopedia of rules knowledge, there are ctain rules that need to be known after a while, just to keep the game moving.  I find myself constantly having to go back to the books every time someone wants to jump for example.  At this point in time, I should already be familiar with the rule.  Also, I think it’s a good idea to be knowledgeable about the classes my PC’s are  playing, in order to avoid this exchange:  “Okay, I roll a 14, but my xx gives me a +1, then I have my xx of xx that grants me a +x, oh and remember my xx is activated so I have a +xx so my final roll is a 31.  I think that hits….  Hmm. Okay.”  Honestly, in my game, I’m trusting my players to not be lying to me, because I haven’t taken the time to really see how the 7 classes work.  Bad job on my part.  Newbie mistake, again, guilty as charged.

Study the tactics, they are there for a reason:  4e adventure design gives the dm monster tactics that are very easy to read, understand and put it into play.  Read them, don’t just gloss over them.  They work alongside the environment and the surroundings to complete the encounter.  The monsters don’t act in a vacuum, they play off each other and off their location.  As a DM, you need to know this for each encounter you are running.  I made the mistake of glossing over the tactics in a particular encounter and missed a very important detail that would have made a huge difference in the end.

This next one is subject to debate and personal preference, but drawing the maps ahead of time is a time saver.  I normally either print maps out, or have them pre-assembled with tiles, but not this past session, and it sloooooowed things down to have to draw things out.  It didn’t help that the map we are in is full of little walls here and there… it’s a ruined tower.  Try to have the maps already done, you’ll save time at the table and avoid comments like “Hurry up Picasso!”

Oh crap Cavalier, I forgot Venger's aura. Take 10 points necrotic. Damn.

I know that I’m not the first, nor last Dm that will make this type of errors while running a game.  I put these out there though so you new Dm’s like me can learn from my experience and keep it in mind for your next game.