I thought I’d join in on the RPG Blog Carnival craze this month, as it deals with a subject near and dear to my game, dm’ing. Let me tell you about how I’ve improved my game since I started as a DM back when 4e was released in the summer of ’08.
Avoid the Railroad
It’s easy to fall into the trap of linearity when you begin as a first time Dm, but I feel like I’ve been able to get out of that trap a bit. Now granted, in my particular campaign I am running both home brew adventures and published ones, so with the published ones it’s hard to not be as linear as that’s just comes with the pre-published adventure territory. There are ways that you can *present* the hooks however, that lead you into the story without feeling too railroady, and I think I’ve gotten there. I’ve written about avoiding what I call the “Newbie Railroad” here.
Letting My Players Play What They Want
One thing I’ve done is to let my players have their space, after all it is their game as well. When I began, I had these high concept ideas that I molded around certain characters in the party, but soon after I realized that this method of play wasn’t going to work. Since our play time is limited, some of my guys want to sample other character types, classes and races. Well, I wasn’t going to fight that. It’s their game as well and their time is as limited as mine, so I can’t keep them from introducing a new class if they feel like it. I’ve sent many PC’s packing their bags and off into the proverbial sunset several times in my game, in order to accommodate a new guy.
I remember when I first began, and you can hardly blame me, that I was very much filled with “hmm & uhh’s”. Being on the DM side of the screen is a daunting task, and an intimidating situation when you’ve got 5 or 6 pairs of eyes waiting on you to start. I’ve become very good at preparation. I usually have my maps prepared ahead of time, my tokens or minis sorted for each encounter, and other necessary things ready to go. Now, we usually don’t take a lot of time to begin, because after all, time is precious for us.
Embracing My Digital Tools
When I first started, I tried really hard to be an analog DM. I felt that D&D was an analog game and I tried really hard to stick to that. I tracked initiative by hand and conditions with tokens. Not anymore. I am now a fully digital DM, and my game couldn’t flow any faster. I track initiative, conditions, and monster HP with a fantastic program and there’s now way I’m going back. Before you suggest it in the comments below, no, I don’t use Masterplan nor do I plan to. I enjoy my method, thankyouverymuch. :) No that I don’t like the program, it looks like a fine one, but I’m just an old dog settled in my ways.
I also print out maps digitally for a majority of the encounters, although not all, and I use the monster builder a lot. Look up digital DM in the dictionary, and there will be a picture of me.
So in closing, yes, I feel that I’ve improved tremendously in my DM’ing in nearly two years. I also started this blog a few months after I started Dm’ing in order to chronicle my experiences, and I feel that helped me out a lot as well. If you are reading this an are a newbie dm, you may want to consider starting your own blog and putting your early experiences down on virtual paper.
The RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted this month at The Questing GM blog. A fine blog from Malaysia of all places. Go check it out!