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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Hey, guys! I'm back. Hope everyone is having a good week.

    Anywho, I've published a new D&D article. This time around, I have some tips and tricks for how to be a better dungeon master.

    If you guys could provide me with some feedback or additional tips, I would greatly appreciate the constructive criticism.

    Have a good day, everybody!

    https://www.gametruth.com/guides/10-...dragons-guide/

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Alright, then here's my criticism, point by point:

    1. Telling DMs to "write their own stories" can be misleading. It's not *their* stories, it's the adventures of the PCs, and a DM has to accept the adventure goes where the adventure goes regardless of the story they have in mind.

    Furthermore, telling people to not be afraid to make their own stories, then that they should "consider using Lord of the Rings or even a classic epic like Beowulf as a template for your story" is contradictory. Using such a template, even as training wheel, goes against the idea of making your own. Maybe suggesting of starting with small-scale scenarios and feeling free to use any other work for inspiration (which is not the same thing as using a template) would fit better?

    2. I disagree entirely with the premise that "Critical rolls are a huge part of Dungeons and Dragons." That rule isn't huge, and there is no reason to give critical rolls more importance than any failed or succeeded attack roll.

    Giving interesting and fun descriptions to results is good advice, but it shouldn't be limited to crit rolls.

    3. Discussing with your players how the campaign is going to be and what they'd be fine/not fine with is paramount, but it's not the same as a "party contract". Maybe it's just me (and I accept the subjective nature of this thought), but I'd rather not have some kind of pseudo-binding contract that people have to "honor" defines how the interactions between people should be, when people can just talk things out.

    4. That's a good point. With the caveat it shouldn't stop DMs from changing rules during the campaign if something comes up and they think it'd be better that way.

    5. Also a good point.

    6. Recaps are nice, but asking a player to recap is often troublesome for both the player and the rest of the table, especially if they didn't prepare (which is most of the time). In general, an "asking what people remember, then filling the blanks" is often more useful, in my experience.

    7. I disagree entirely. There is no reason to pre-roll anything. At best you'd be trading juggling dice for juggling set numbers in the right order. Not to mention it's making the DM's side of things entirely predictable for the DM, which is robbing yourself of a lot of what makes RPGs fun.

    Some things can be rolled outside sessions, of course, but pre-rolling the results that are going to be used in-session is more trouble than it's worth.

    8. Another good point.

    9. I disagree. A DM should take notes the way that's the most comfortable for them. Not everyone is the most confortable with high level of organization. And not all DMs take a lot of notes, nor should they if they prefer otherwise.

    Telling new DMs that they have to take lot of organized notes can hurt their fun in the long run if they feel obligated to do it a way that is not their best way.

    10. Another good point.


    All in all, the good points seems more directed to beginner DMs, but a reminder is always useful. The rest of the points, though, are kinda personal opinions about a playstyle you favor, and while there is nothing wrong with preferring things a certain way, and in my opinion it should be said to be opinions toward a specific playstyle rather than being described as how to be a "better Dungeon Master".
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2019-05-15 at 06:20 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    Alright, then here's my criticism, point by point:

    1. Telling DMs to "write their own stories" can be misleading. It's not *their* stories, it's the adventures of the PCs, and a DM has to accept the adventure goes where the adventure goes regardless of the story they have in mind.

    Furthermore, telling people to not be afraid to make their own stories, then that they should "consider using Lord of the Rings or even a classic epic like Beowulf as a template for your story" is contradictory. Using such a template, even as training wheel, goes against the idea of making your own. Maybe suggesting of starting with small-scale scenarios and feeling free to use any other work for inspiration (which is not the same thing as using a template) would fit better?

    2. I disagree entirely with the premise that "Critical rolls are a huge part of Dungeons and Dragons." That rule isn't huge, and there is no reason to give critical rolls more importance than any failed or succeeded attack roll.

    Giving interesting and fun descriptions to results is good advice, but it shouldn't be limited to crit rolls.

    3. Discussing with your players how the campaign is going to be and what they'd be fine/not fine with is paramount, but it's not the same as a "party contract". Maybe it's just me (and I accept the subjective nature of this thought), but I'd rather not have some kind of pseudo-binding contract that people have to "honor" defines how the interactions between people should be, when people can just talk things out.

    4. That's a good point. With the caveat it shouldn't stop DMs from changing rules during the campaign if something comes up and they think it'd be better that way.

    5. Also a good point.

    6. Recaps are nice, but asking a player to recap is often troublesome for both the player and the rest of the table, especially if they didn't prepare (which is most of the time). In general, an "asking what people remember, then filling the blanks" is often more useful, in my experience.

    7. I disagree entirely. There is no reason to pre-roll anything. At best you'd be trading juggling dice for juggling set numbers in the right order. Not to mention it's making the DM's side of things entirely predictable for the DM, which is robbing yourself of a lot of what makes RPGs fun.

    Some things can be rolled outside sessions, of course, but pre-rolling the results that are going to be used in-session is more trouble than it's worth.

    8. Another good point.

    9. I disagree. A DM should take notes the way that's the most comfortable for them. Not everyone is the most confortable with high level of organization. And not all DMs take a lot of notes, nor should they if they prefer otherwise.

    Telling new DMs that they have to take lot of organized notes can hurt their fun in the long run if they feel obligated to do it a way that is not their best way.

    10. Another good point.


    All in all, the good points seems more directed to beginner DMs, but a reminder is always useful. The rest of the points, though, are kinda personal opinions about a playstyle you favor, and while there is nothing wrong with preferring things a certain way, and in my opinion it should be said to be opinions toward a specific playstyle rather than being described as how to be a "better Dungeon Master".
    Hey there! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to offer me meaningful feedback. It means a lot to me. I see your points. Honestly, the things you are saying are largely being reflected by most of my commenters. The largest issue people seem to have is the fumble rule sectioin, which is understandable.

    Anyways, thank you again for taking the time. Your support means a lot to me. I'll keep this criticism close to my chest as I keep writing guides like these.

    If you ever have any ideas you would like to see made into a guide or if you have any other feedback, feel free to shoot me a message.

    Have a great day!

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default

    1) Okay. I agree with the previous poster who commented that the story also belongs to the players. DMs who get hung up on their own narrative over adjusting that narrative to reflect player choices are a problem, in my experience.

    2) Oh my God, NO! Fumbles were cute once upon a time, for like an hour. Your characters are heroes and should be respected as such. Adding fumbles in (which trigger 1/20 of the time on every roll) erodes that respect. How many times did we see Leonidas fumble and hop around on one foot in 300? As a 20th level fighter with Polearm Master he should be attacking 5 times a turn. So every 24 seconds or so he should of been pulling a 3 Stooges move? That would of really made the movie brilliant !

    3) I like that. Puts some formality into the group over a random bunch of murder hobos who meet at a bar and go on to kill Asmodeus. Just make sure THE PLAYERS create this contract and enforce it.

    4) The DM should get buy in from the players on any changes to the standard rules and be willing to consider adjusting these changes if there's considerable and reasonable feedback. The DM should not have to tell the players about any changes to monster stat blocks unless the PCs would have some reason to know about them. Accordingly the DM should treat the players like they are somewhat familiar with the basics of common or famous monsters (trolls are effected by fire, orcs have darkvision, etc) because of prevalent folklore.

    5) Cool!

    6) I do this and it's good. I find it's better if I do this as the DM rather than have a player do it as I am able to remind the party of important info or events that a player may not remember to cover or know to emphasize.

    7) I've seen this done to good effect in organized tournament play. I prefer the spontaneity of rolling live, however. When dealing with rolls involving lots of dice over I'll use an average rather than actually rolling if it seems appropriate.

    8) Yeah. I don't mind looking up rules at the table as a DM if I'm vague on it. If I think I know a rule and a player challenges it I give them a short amount of time to produce clarification (like a minute) and if they can't find it we table the issue and go with my judgement. We then clarify the situation when there's more time so that everyone learns from it. Allowing action to get bogged down by rules conflicts is a bore.

    9) Agreed.

    10) Okay.
    Last edited by darknite; 2019-05-16 at 07:55 AM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Spend 40 hours reading here:

    https://theangrygm.com/

    Seriously. It's a PhD level course entirely on DM Get Gud.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Thanks for the link to A Soft Murmur! I've been looking for something like this for quite a while!

    Regarding critical failures, I like them and use them in my games. However, I roll to confirm, with only 1-5 on the second roll of a d20 being an actual failure. That way, the risk and tension is there but the game doesn't degenerate into complete slapstick.

    1: Hit self
    2: Hit different target
    3: Drop weapon
    4: Break weapon (magic weapons can't break, treat this as drop weapon)
    5: Fall down
    6-7: Break weapon (only for silvered/cold iron)

    Regarding contracts, they should only be developed by the players UNLESS it's an important part of the plot (i.e. they're all guild members). Feel free to provide input though!
    Last edited by NRSASD; 2019-05-16 at 08:43 AM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt Kurageous View Post
    Spend 40 hours reading here:

    https://theangrygm.com/

    Seriously. It's a PhD level course entirely on DM Get Gud.
    Eh. I've never read anything from the Angry GM that I found useful.


    Granted I didn't read everything, but the entries I read didn't make me want to continue. Quite a bit was in the "my opinion is fact" territory, like his rant on psionics.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by darknite View Post
    1) Okay. I agree with the previous poster who commented that the story also belongs to the players. DMs who get hung up on their own narrative over adjusting that narrative to reflect player choices are a problem, in my experience.

    2) Oh my God, NO! Fumbles were cute once upon a time, for like an hour. Your characters are heroes and should be respected as such. Adding fumbles in (which trigger 1/20 of the time on every roll) erodes that respect. How many times did we see Leonidas fumble and hop around on one foot in 300? As a 20th level fighter with Polearm Master he should be attacking 5 times a turn. So every 24 seconds or so he should of been pulling a 3 Stooges move? That would of really made the movie brilliant !

    3) I like that. Puts some formality into the group over a random bunch of murder hobos who meet at a bar and go on to kill Asmodeus. Just make sure THE PLAYERS create this contract and enforce it.

    4) The DM should get buy in from the players on any changes to the standard rules and be willing to consider adjusting these changes if there's considerable and reasonable feedback. The DM should not have to tell the players about any changes to monster stat blocks unless the PCs would have some reason to know about them. Accordingly the DM should treat the players like they are somewhat familiar with the basics of common or famous monsters (trolls are effected by fire, orcs have darkvision, etc) because of prevalent folklore.

    5) Cool!

    6) I do this and it's good. I find it's better if I do this as the DM rather than have a player do it as I am able to remind the party of important info or events that a player may not remember to cover or know to emphasize.

    7) I've seen this done to good effect in organized tournament play. I prefer the spontaneity of rolling live, however. When dealing with rolls involving lots of dice over I'll use an average rather than actually rolling if it seems appropriate.

    8) Yeah. I don't mind looking up rules at the table as a DM if I'm vague on it. If I think I know a rule and a player challenges it I give them a short amount of time to produce clarification (like a minute) and if they can't find it we table the issue and go with my judgement. We then clarify the situation when there's more time so that everyone learns from it. Allowing action to get bogged down by rules conflicts is a bore.

    9) Agreed.

    10) Okay.
    Hey, darknite! Thank you for your feedback. I see your point about a DM making their own story.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    Eh. I've never read anything from the Angry GM that I found useful.


    Granted I didn't read everything, but the entries I read didn't make me want to continue. Quite a bit was in the "my opinion is fact" territory, like his rant on psionics.
    The rant stuff is a schtick and a defense mechanism against other social media. End of the day, its an expression of personal insecurity.

    What he provides is position on technique. I read him and reflect on his technique and how it is like or unlike my own, look at the differences, and improve whether I follow or not. That's why I recommend him to a DM seeking to improve their DMing.

    And some techniques, like the time/tension pool are just phenomenally well thought out.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    Thanks for the link to A Soft Murmur! I've been looking for something like this for quite a while!

    Regarding critical failures, I like them and use them in my games. However, I roll to confirm, with only 1-5 on the second roll of a d20 being an actual failure. That way, the risk and tension is there but the game doesn't degenerate into complete slapstick.

    1: Hit self
    2: Hit different target
    3: Drop weapon
    4: Break weapon (magic weapons can't break, treat this as drop weapon)
    5: Fall down
    6-7: Break weapon (only for silvered/cold iron)

    Regarding contracts, they should only be developed by the players UNLESS it's an important part of the plot (i.e. they're all guild members). Feel free to provide input though!
    Hey, NRS. Thank you for your feedback! I like your idea about confirming fumbles. I think that strikes a fine balance.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Orc in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    The tips seem to stress tools a lot. That can lead to quite mechanic DM'ing.

    I'd add some live from the Sky DM tips:

    1) Make your (recurring) NPCs distinct and lively. Give them their own voice (intonation, word choice, etc) and quirks (can be alluded to first, and later maybe it's a (dirty) secret).

    2) Remember to activate all senses when you describe a new scene: sight, sounds, smell and tactility.

    3) As part of your Session 0 (the Contract), design an Out of Character signal and a "Sidebar this boring discussion"-signal.

    4) It's OK to wing a stat-block. You don't have to look up all NPCs.
    Rule of Cool and Rules as Fun. My favourite D&D session had 3 dice rolls. I'm currently curious to any system that has a higher amount of choices in combat than 5e from the beginning of the game; especially for non-spellcasters. Please PM any recommendations.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by hboyce1 View Post
    Hey, NRS. Thank you for your feedback! I like your idea about confirming fumbles. I think that strikes a fine balance.
    This is probably the way to do it if you have fumbles. The main trouble is the extra rolling, which can slow down the game a bit.

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    Kyouhen's Avatar

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    Thanks for the link to A Soft Murmur! I've been looking for something like this for quite a while!

    Regarding critical failures, I like them and use them in my games. However, I roll to confirm, with only 1-5 on the second roll of a d20 being an actual failure. That way, the risk and tension is there but the game doesn't degenerate into complete slapstick.

    1: Hit self
    2: Hit different target
    3: Drop weapon
    4: Break weapon (magic weapons can't break, treat this as drop weapon)
    5: Fall down
    6-7: Break weapon (only for silvered/cold iron)

    Regarding contracts, they should only be developed by the players UNLESS it's an important part of the plot (i.e. they're all guild members). Feel free to provide input though!
    I've got the Critical Fumble and Critical Hit decks designed for Pathfinder and (with minor adjustments to be more 5e friendly, mostly for DCs) they're great. The fumble deck had a confirmation option that I use where you confirm by making a second attack roll, and if that roll misses it's a fumble. Works well because a well-trained fighter is going to be a lot better at not accidentally breaking his weapon fighting a goblin than a wizard is, and I can work in the more dangerous/skilled monsters into what happened. (You miss the orc warlord with an overhead swing and hit the ground, leaving a wide opening. He quickly retaliates with a brutal strike to your sword, shattering it)

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    Honestly, regardless of whether I agree with each piece of advice, I disagree with the format of the article.
    Each tip is too short to be useful. You don't discuss anything, but simply state things as fact in a short and succinct way. This means that people don't have time to start thinking about what you're saying, so they won't remember it.

    If you look at articles from The Angry GM (linked earlier), he'll devote an entire article to a single piece of advice, and spend a couple thousand words discussing that subject. This means that the reader is fully engaged when the important points come, and the brain is ready to disseminate the information with the proper context already at hand.
    It's harder to get through the articles that way, but if you take the time to read it, you are much more likely to remember what the article said.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: 10 Tips to Being a Better Dungeon Master A Dungeons and Dragons Guide

    One of our DM's once tried using a list of prerolled numbers. He was accused of knowing what the next number would be, and planning around that.

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