I'm About to Run My First D&D Game, and I Need Help!
I, like many of you, am I member of several online D&D communities. Facebook groups, subreddits, discord servers, and the like. Every so often, and with increasing frequency, I will see someone say that they're about to run their first ever session of D&D. I'm always happy to see this! This is how the hobby grows! But, these posts are almost always followed by the question "Does anyone have any advice?" Sometimes it's "Y’all have any last minute tips?" or just a simple "I’m super nervous! HELP!"
Just in case this applies to you, here is a list of things new Dungeon Masters, or experienced DMs who need a reminder, need to keep in mind.
Everyone gets nervous.
Think about the best dungeon master you know, either in real life or on the internet. They either got nervous before running their first game. Most are pretty open about this, and the rest are not being honest. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but the power to act in spite of it.
Everyone is here to have fun.
Everyone means everyone. That means you AND your players. They didn’t show up to the game to rip you a new one, make fun of your hard work, or pick your adventure apart. They WANT to have fun. All you have to do is let them.
Don’t feel that you have to know everything.
Live performers of ALL kinds forget their lines and cues. Accidents, flubs, an bloopers happen and rules can be forgotten. But the show must go on! Don't dwell on momentary mistakes! Just keep the game moving. One of your players may remember that rule you don't know? If not, make up a rule that makes sense in the moment, and make a note to look the real rule up later for next time. You have time to become an expert on that later when you aren't surrounded by people eagerly wanting to hear more of your story!
Whether its on a legal pad, sticky notes, a laptop, or on your phone, write stuff down! Things WILL happen that WILL matter later in the game. Did the players do something memorable? Write it down. Did they meet a new NPC? Write their name down. Did they leave a clue behind? Write it down! Don't depend on your fallible human memory! Anything you might want to remember, write it down. And from session to session, keep all your notes in the same place so they'll be easy to review. You’ll thank me later.
Being a dungeon master is a skill.
Skills require practice to develop. Some people are more talented than others at first, but everyone can improve with determination and opportunity. Don’t sweat it if your first session isn’t perfect. Your next one WILL be better. And those nerves you’re feeling? They’ll be more manageable next time.
Tell yourself, out loud if necessary, that you’re going to have a good time.
If you’re not having a good time, your players probably aren’t either. Lead by example, and do what YOU think is fun. Fun is infectious, and it will spread to your players. Commit to it, embrace the fun, and they will too!
Remember these few little tips when you're sitting down to run your first session (and every session after), and you'll be fine. I believe in you! You CAN do this! When you’re done, come back and share how it went, and tweet us to share tips of your own based on your experience!