Although a game of Dungeons & Dragons is a collaborative experience between the party’s players and the Dungeon Master, there are some aspects of the experience unique to DMs.
Whether it’s through meticulously planning a session, embracing improv, dealing with curveballs thrown by players, or otherwise overseeing a game, DMs come up against both trials and triumphs, no matter their style of play at the table. Whatever approach a DM takes, whether strict or more laidback, some experiences behind the DM screen are a common occurrence.
10 The True Big Bad
Among many groups of D&D players and DMs the real enemy can be getting together in order to actually play, with conflicting schedules often halting progress.
Additionally for parties that play online timezones can be a factor. Ultimately, whilst this is a problem for players as well, it means that in the long chain of expectation the DM has to wait before resuming a story. Whilst in some cases this may be helpful – perhaps there are kinks in a plot that need time to be worked out – disruptions to a schedule can be frustrating to DMs for interrupting the flow of their narrative, and longer gaps can mean that players forget key details from prior sessions.
9 Making The Jump Behind The Screen
With Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition acting as one of the best TTRPG’s for first time game masters, it makes sense that the system becomes a lot of players first experience of DMing.
Making the transition from player to DM can be jarring, given the disparity of preparation needed before the game between the two, but the perks of being a DM mean crafting the world beyond a player character and their backstory, as well as the rewarding experience of helping players to inhabit the story they most want to tell.
8 Giving A Helping Hand
The job of the DM isn’t always to make things more challenging for players, particularly when there’s a crucial piece of information hinging on a roll.
Given D&D’s blend of storytelling and chance, there are some instances when the dice just don’t co-operate with the narrative, and though there’s always the quick fix of granting a player advantage to see if they can do any better, some checks – even simple ones – get quickly thwarted by a roll. Having the option to distribute information in other ways, this circumstance doesn’t always mean failure, but it can be frustrating.
7 Feeling Strange In A New Role
The view from behind the DM screen can become familiar and comforting in its own way, and so when forever DMs have a rare chance to play, it can feel unexpectedly strange.
Although the roles of both DM and player have their advantages, yielding control of the wider world and becoming a player can take a bit of getting used to. Additionally, remembering to speak in first person and realizing that players don’t jump from character to character may have some DMs wishing they were back to planning encounters.
6 When Players Get Caught Up
Particularly relevant when running a large D&D group, there’s a certain learning curve as a DM in regards to how much material needs to be planned for a session.
Although lots of DMs may worry about having enough material to fill time, the truth of the matter is that accomplishing anything within Dungeons & Dragons takes more time than may be expected. From lengthy rounds of combat to roleplaying scenes or players following diversions, adventuring can sometimes be a slower path than anticipated.
5 The Perils Of Balancing Encounters
Though in some ways wizard is the best magical class D&D 5e has to offer, a low-level wizard has to be very mindful of their HP, which in turn makes balancing combat for characters of that level difficult on the DMs part.
Challenge Ratings do exist in order to assist planning for such battles, but the truth of the matter is that these ratings don’t always take into consideration how well or else poorly a character rolls. Whilst harder-to-hit classes may delight in low level brawls, DMs will have to make sure a cleric is on standby for the wizard.
4 When Players Cling To Something Unexpected
A great part of the fun of D&D comes from moments of improvisation, often spawning inside jokes or impromptu adventures that end up becoming some of the most memorable aspects of a campaign.
Though for some DMs keeping players on track is of the utmost importance, the enjoyment that comes from players taking delight in something a DM does, even in a moment of unplanned panic, can be better than what was otherwise planned. Additionally, such instances can help DMs better cater for their players in future sessions, having gained a better understanding of what is enjoyable to them.
3 When Wording Matters
Though keeping secrets is a part of DMing, dropping hints about the outcome of a roll can be worthwhile in its own way, if only to see a player’s face when they try and unravel a subtle (or not-so subtle!) clue.
The element of surprise can be used to great effect in D&D, and it can be gratifying to finally reveal something that’s been brewing in the background of a story, but in addition to that watching players come together to correctly assemble a DMs clues is also satisfying, showing that the hints put in place were well-laid.
2 Channeling A Greater Evil
Whether it’s because fantasy movies inspire campaigns or else the villain’s rise in popularity, DMs may find their own comedic yet villainous persona from all manner of sources.
Ultimately, whatever kind of campaign a DM is running, whether it’s battle heavy and seriously concerned with the intricacies or war or more based in the realm of roleplaying, the important thing for all playing to remember is that the game is about entertainment, and having the ability to enjoy even the sad moments of a campaign makes for a richer experience.
1 A Wholesome Interaction
The challenge of DMing can be a nerve-wracking one, with the DM being placed in a position that can have them feeling overly responsible for their players enjoyment of a game.
In truth Dungeons & Dragons is a game that best thrives as a collaborative experience, and so it is also true that hearing feedback from players after a session can be a great motivator to continue to play, and helps DMs confidence in their abilities grow. In doing so, the DM should also strive to have as much fun as a player.
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