D&D – DM’ing Tips

Players and Die Rolling:

·        “Fate is in their hands” – let players roll the dice when it affects them, even if they don’t know why (traps hitting them, random encounters, etc).

·        Don’t let them roll if they have no chance to succeed – if they roll well, you’ll feel obligated to give them something.

·        Roll to let the player know something that their character might know.

Running NPCs:

·        Make the NPCs self-aware of how they are perceived, and expect to be treated, by the outside world (as a peasant, as a noble, etc).

Controlling Information Flow:

·        “NPC’s name?  It’s written down here somewhere, I’ll look it up in a minute” – you might not have it made up, but it makes it seem that NPCs matter in your world.

·        Using an NPC, who has a certain point of view, is a more interesting way of giving background or world information to the players, because it can be done in character, and the NPC can be wrong, mis-guided, or contradictions to the NPC’s view can be foreshadowed.

·        If something would be obvious to the PC in the game, it should also be obvious to the player, and the DM should give them that information.

·        Enough detail should be given to be able to reach a conclusion, but not the conclusion itself.  “Orc hesitates, looks at the combat unfolding, then runs for the door” (Conclusion = he’s going for reinforcements).

·        Take players to another room and tell them something instead of passing them a note they could read to the rest of the players

·        Tell players things that remove confusion or things that save time, NOT things that remove their agency or uncertainty

·        Do not tell players how their character thinks or feels.

·        Describe things such that players can come to the conclusion about an unknown thing on their own.  Things they know or recognize can be named (“It’s a tavern”).

Random encounters:

·        should be nastier than pushing onwards in the dungeon, but monsters can flee instead of fighting to the death, because they will tend to escape to their lair and lick their wounds.

·        Why?  Monsters approach PCs on the monsters’ terms, rather than being interrupted when doing whatever monsters do.

·        Roll d12 instead of d6.  On a 1/12, dangerous encounter; on a 2/12, more trivial encounter.  (On a 3/12, close encounter?)

Handling Time, especially in Sandbox Campaigns:

–        Explain to players that:  “The clock is always ticking”.  That is, things that they choose not to deal with will carry on without them.

Skill challenges:

–        Number of successes before number of failures.

–        Consequence for each successive failure

–        Simple challenge:  3 successes b4 3 failures

–        Difficult challenge:  4+ successes b4 3 failures

–        Recommended:  TELL players they are in a skill challenge (i.e. a mini-game), and how many successes they need

–        Tell players a few skills they could use to do __ to help solve the challenge or make the DCs easier

–        Extra-high rolls/results mean multiple successes from that one roll

–        “How would you use to help you in this situation”

–        Try not to let them re-use a skill to get another success (also no retries)

–        For long challenges, have a way to undo failures (dodge the falling block, help another character dodge the block, find a shortcut that helps catch up)