87 DM tips.

Posted on July 31, 2013 by


I went crazy on twitter last night. I was doing some fiction writing (non rpg) when I suddenly stopped and thought about how I really haven’t been doing my job as “newbiedm”, which basically is to try and help new dm’s do their job right. So I started tweeting tips. And before I knew it, I had 20, then 30, until I ended the night with 87 tips delivered through twitter.

So here they are, for posterity. I hope you find them useful.  Expanding on each of these tips  can be blog posts on their own, and I may do that.  You may not agree with everything here, so feel free to comment below or add your own.

  1. Remember when you were the kid who fell in love with #dnd the first time you played? Write adventures for that kid. #rpg
  2. That annoying guy in real life? Put him in your adventure. He’s obviously memorable. #dnd #rpg
  3. Don’t give npc’s too much small talk. Get to the point, or I may miss something important. #dnd #rpg
  4. Your BBEG (and each PC) has a huge emotional crutch. What is it? #dnd #rpg
  5. Signs your adventure may be sexist: you describe the clothes of every female npc in the world, but not the males. 🙂 #dnd #rpg
  6. If my character’s having visions, it better pay off down the line. Otherwise you’ve wasted our time. #dnd #rpg
  7. Full page of description text? Not unless your name is Gary Gygax. #dnd #rpg
  8. Ask yourself if you’d be excited about being a player in your own campaign. If you’d pick something else, back to drawing board. #dnd #rpg
  9. Stop showing off what a good writer you think you are. I want a description of the area, not 10 pages of your lore. #dnd #rpg
  10. Everyone’s fought some evil cult. Gimme something interesting. #dnd #rpg
  11. “I don’t know” is not in the dm’s vocabulary. You have to know or I’m leaving. #dnd #rpg
  12. If I hear that your npc is “the most incredible swordsmith in town”, I better see why. #dnd #rpg
  13. Go heavy on what something feels like rather than what something looks like. #dnd #rpg
  14. Swap genres to surprise your players. Serious campaign? Add a bit of comedy to lighten the mood. #dnd #rpg
  15. I don’t want to hear about my destiny. My character is disposable and better not figure into your meta plot, otherwise I’ll know I live and challenges will be worthless… #dnd #rpg
  16. Loot is earned, not found #dnd #rpg
  17. The smaller the dungeon, the larger the pressure. #dnd #rpg 🙂
  18. If you’re going to introduce a thieves guild, for example, have a basic idea of how one may work. I might ask you questions. #dnd #rpg
  19. The only original thing in this adventure is you. You make these tired plots and monsters come to life like nobody else can. #dnd #rpg
  20. Is your opening scene set at the local inn? Change your opening scene. #dnd #rpg
  21. The more you draw it out, the more amazeballs your adventure’s ending has to be. We want a payoff! #dnd #rpg
  22. Need a time out? Take a time out. DMing isn’t a job, it’s supposed to be fun. #rpg #dnd
  23. Believe in your argument if you are violating the laws of physics. “Magic!” is sometimes stupid. #dnd #rpg
  24. There’s a fine line between a buffoon, and an npc who couldn’t possibly function in a fantasy world or otherwise. #dnd #rpg
  25. Adventure getting boring? Come up with something that makes them say “what the hell just happened?”. #dnd #rpg
  26. The worst aging thing you can write is comedy. The clever lines in your older adventures? Check them before you run them again. 🙂 #dnd #rpg
  27. Stop telling me what you’re seeing in *your* head, dm. Describe the scene and let my mind take care of the rest. #dnd #rpg
  28. What does your BBEG gain in each encounter before the players? He better gain something if they lose. #dnd #rpg
  29. A rule’s in the way of something cool you want to try? Break it. But it better be cool. #dnd #rpg
  30. You stopped and showed us “an important rare sword” in your adventure? Somebody better swing it. #dnd #rpg
  31. Slow down and describe the smallest details only when it’s relevant to the character’s choices. Otherwise get on with it. #dnd #rpg
  32. Quick npc voice on the spot? Think of a celebrity. Imitate him. #rpg #dnd
  33. Tell the players what their character sees, and not what you want them to think is going on. #dnd #rpg
  34. Not every bad guy GROWLS at the pc’s. Some of the best bad guys are calm and collected. #dnd #rpg
  35. The best monsters have some sort of emotion. #dnd #rpg
  36. Hide your boring exposition. It doesn’t always have to be the old man in the inn you sets the party off. Maybe it’s a few things. #dnd #rpg
  37. “Oh, your setting has something cool!? I better see it.” #dnd #rpg
  38. “cold, icy gaze” is a better way to describe your BBEG than just saying he has “blue eyes”. #dnd #rpg
  39. Be ready to answer random questions about your setting. #dnd #rpg
  40. If you can’t tell yourself why that encounter is there, then it shouldn’t exist. Kill it. #dnd #rpg
  41. Atmosphere isn’t in the environment, but rather in how that environment affects and challenges the pc’s. #dnd #rpg
  42. Every single pc at that table should have something to lose in this adventure. #dnd #rpg
  43. Your npc’s are better off without that extra dialogue you want to add that you think is clever. #dnd #rpg
  44. Make your pc’s create their own worst enemy. #dnd #rpg
  45. First question to start off your new campaign: “What kind of encounters do you all wanna see?” Chances are, you won’t go wrong. #dnd #rpg
  46. We’ve seen orcs before. What is it about *these* orcs…? #dnd #rpg
  47. Your story better hook me from the start. Don’t have my character walking in circles trying to figure out what to do to get going. #rpg #dnd
  48. Once your pc’s catch their breath and think they’re okay–make sure they’re not! #dnd #rpg
  49. Build your adventure up towards its most important moment, the “oh shit!” moment. #dnd #rpg
  50. Sacrifices have to be done by npc’s the players care about. Otherwise it’s just bullshit that players will laugh about. #dnd #rpg
  51. Not everyone is a philosopher. NPCs have to be real. #dnd #rpg
  52. Don’t make me do more math when I’m playing #dnd. “25 years ago” sounds better described to me than “in the year 235 of the Empirium”
  53. If you point out a place in your world, you bet I’m going to go there. Be ready. #dnd #rpg
  54. A good bad guy will make your pc’s cross a line they thought they wouldn’t. #dnd #rpg
  55. A good first impression will hook me. Make the opening of your game pop! #dnd #rpg
  56. Interesting worlds have interesting npc’s. One line of dialogue can make the difference. #dnd #rpg
  57. Your character’s power isn’t what’s interesting & important. But rather what you choose to do with it. #dnd #rpg
  58. Your players should be safe before they leave town, and when they come back to town. Otherwise they should always be in peril. #dnd #rpg
  59. Be fair. The hardest choice the pc’s make should be the right choice. #dnd #rpg
  60.  A good guy turned bad guy who we used to know hurts more than a bad guy we just met. Go for their gut. #dnd #rpg
  61. You want your players “uncertain” about what’s happening, not “confused”. #dnd #rpg
  62. Nobody really screams “Nooooooo!” #dnd #rpg
  63. When describing, you’re not “explaining”. You’re “convincing”. #dnd #rpg
  64. Make bad player choices mean something. Up the ante. #dnd #rpg
  65. It’s cool if a few npc’s joke around or act like jerks all the time. It’s stupid if they *all* do it. #dnd #rpg
  66. Know your BBEG first before you even know what he’s planning. #dnd #rpg
  67. When playing in a licensed setting, find a way to leave your mark in that world. It’ll make it memorable. I have my SW dragon. 🙂 #rpg
  68. Your npc’s need to speak a lot less than you think. #dnd #rpg
  69. Don’t go for the predictable. That road leads down to evil cultists sacrificing people at the bottom of a dungeon. #dnd #rpg
  70. Flashbacks in an adventure: A good one will raise a question while answering another. #dnd #rpg
  71. Go back to your older discarded ideas. There may be something there now for you. #dnd #rpg
  72. Horror: Easier to shock than it is to truly disturb. Go for the latter. #dnd #rpg
  73. If you can’t really describe well to the players where all the combatants are standing, this fight’s not gonna work. #dnd #rpg
  74. Give the pc’s something they’ve never seen before. #dnd #rpg
  75. Don’t save your cool stuff for your *next* session. Your players aren’t guaranteed to come back. 🙂 #dnd #rpg
  76. Your setting is interesting for how it challenges the players. Not for it’s history and its past. #dnd #rpg
  77. Look at your first encounter. Now brainstorm a few ways to make it better. Move on to the second… #dnd #rpg
  78. What’s the emotional anchor of each of your pc’s? Make sure you take it away from them. #dnd #rpg
  79. The more your bad guy gets away with, the more your players will love him. #dnd #rpg
  80. Let the PC’s breathe every now and then. Let them stop and emotionally feel something about their situation. #dnd #rpg
  81. A good bad guy, a BBEG, isn’t just out to make your pc’s day worse. No, they make it personal. #dnd #rpg
  82. How do you know you wouldn’t dm a particular genre well, if you’ve never tried it? #dnd #rpg
  83. Your job is to convince players that the challenge they face is important and makes sense in your story. #dnd #rpg
  84. if *you* don’t really love your BBEG, your players probably won’t either. Get him right. Make him memorable. #dnd #rpg
  85. Don’t apologize for your weird setting or campaign idea. Own it, explain it, and make your players love it. #dnd #rpg
  86. Don’t fret over eliminating large but unnecessary parts of your adventure. You created it, you can certainly destroy it. #rpg #dnd
  87. Your set-piece battle isn’t memorable. How  fantastic your bad guys act and behave with the PC’s during the set piece, is. #dnd #rpg

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