So far, we’ve talked about the why and how to start PLAYING Dungeons and Dragons. Well, a room filled with 100 people looking to play D&D without a DM is out of luck. The DM is there to facilitate the game, but also to have their own fun as well. The DM controls the outline of the story, but it’s the player’s decisions that shape what happens. On the surface, it seems like a lot of work, and sometimes it is. However, it can be just as much fun as playing. You get to be everybody else in the world, which means you can be anyone else in the world. Playing around with silly voices or a personality quirk turns a faceless merchant into an NPC the players can’t get enough of, and want to revisit as often as possible. Saying a horrible thing, or threatening someone the players care about is guaranteed to evoke total disdain and rage.
If you really break it down, running a session is pretty simple. Contrary to how it may seem, the DM doesn’t need to know every rule. Just like the group’s fighter doesn’t need to know how Druid spells work, neither does the DM. The Druid learns the right way, and if something sounds odd during play things can be looked up. In the digital age it’s as simple as picking up your phone. All you need to run the game is an understanding of what’s going on, where the story is going and some ideas for when the players go in the wrong direction so you can get them back on track. Combat, which can get complex is as simple as knowing what they will be fighting ahead of time. Combat stats are easy to follow for monsters/enemies, especially at lower levels.
Back to the fun aspects of running a game. First, you get to watch your friends try and figure stuff out. Man, when they’ve almost got it (or when they’re WAY off) you will marvel at how giddy it makes you feel. Sometimes their ideas are so out there no one could build a game where these hair brained schemes could possibly work. Other times, they come up with something so nuts, it actually WORKS! This is the part where they’re doing the work, and you’re along for the ride.
As far as storytelling, it’s more than just reading text. The more life you can give the situation, the clearer the image in the player’s minds. Allow them to ask lots of questions. Sometimes the little details clarify something, but sometimes some improvisation is necessary. Feel free to change things up, depending on the players’ path thru the story. Remember that faceless merchant? Well, the players fall in love with him because on a whim you gave him a lisp, or a British accent. So if they keep going back to him, just to hear the voice you pulled out of your ass, guess what! He’s part of a secret organization, or a thieves guild. Now he’s the contact they were trying to find, or he has that tidbit of info he overheard between two NPC’s that were shopping in his place. I mean, if Ol’ Benny’s is the best dang armor shop in the kingdom, OF COURSE those mercenaries you’ve been chasing came thru. Ol’ Benny may be old, but “these dad gum ears are still a workin!”. As someone who runs more games than he plays, it is a whole RPG skill set that takes some practice but once you get the hang of it it is very rewarding. Getting to know your players “in game” will help alot. The first few levels of your game is both a team building exercise for them and a way for you to know what they are expecting. Once you know that, you can gradually tell a rich, rewarding story together.
Combat can be fun also. You get to be all kinds of fun monsters (a minotaur charging thru a wall Kool-Aid Man style is ALWAYS AWESOME), spell casters (evil Dealthpriest is ALWAYS AWESOME) or even inept guards (dumb meatheads are ALWAYS AWESOME). Just like with NPC’s feel free to give them little personalities or catch phrases, but not too elaborate cuz, well, they’ll be dead soon. Another great move is having a particular enemy appear in multiple encounters, getting progressively more dangerous the closer the team gets to victory. Oh, you thought he was running away all those times, HA! He just had more important things to do….
Future articles will go into detail on some of these aspects of running your very own D&D game, like materials, techniques and the like. These first few are an overvue to get people interested in getting started. So what are you guys waiting for! Get those horrible torture devices called D20s rolling! Also, any questions you guys might have, feel free to put them in the comments below.