Map: The Iron Hold Prison

Map: The Iron Hold Prison

Built with 4 foot thick stone walls and barred windows high in the ceiling, Lord Draimont’s Iron Hold prison held up to 40 inmates captive in cramped desperate conditions.

During a freak unnatural storm, several masked sorcerers destroyed the western wall to the cells, entered the prison and lead a mass prison break.

30 prisoners fled Iron Hold into the dark electrical storm and disappeared without trace. These prisoners ranged from murders, dark warlocks and spies of the empire.

8 prisoners were slain in the initial prison break and 2 were killed in later conflicts with the Royal Guard.

Following the breakout, civil war fell upon the region and the Iron Hold prison never received the repairs or required.

Once it fell into disrepair, it was quickly taken over by gnolls and has never been secure since.

Thanks to @thunderbrd1 for their suggestion of The Iron Hold as a name.

How can a DM tell players that a room’s unimportant?

How can a DM tell players that a room’s unimportant?

DMs often create monasteries, mansions and mines that are realistic, but this often lead players into thinking every room is equally as important and must be searched floor to ceiling. This leads to time wasted and much longer gaming sessions. How can the DM tell players that a room’s unimportant and that they shouldn’t linger here checking under every cushion, or behind every crate.

In this article I’ve put together a bunch of different ways to deal with players who feel they must toss each room. You may find different methods for different audiences.

There’s no one right method.

 

TL>DR

  1. Give the players an incentive not to search, such as a time pressure
  2. Make unimportant rooms dull and their descriptions lack-luster. Glamorous rooms inspire players to search for glorious treasure. The reverse is also true.
  3. Use Passive Perception / Passive Searching. No need to roll for trivial items being found.
  4. Never hide key items in unimportant rooms. Crucial items, powerful items, information or NPCs draw players to them – if you put them in unimportant rooms you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.
  5. Go out of character before the session. As the DM you’re there to make things run smoothly. If needed, have a chat before the session and explain characters dont need to trash each room.

 

Why would a DM even add unimportant rooms?

Mines descend into the darkness and could have miles of tracks, pulleys and air-vents. Monasteries would have prayer rooms, vaults and ceremonial chambers. Mansions would have grand bedrooms, large dining rooms and glorious ballrooms.

These are key rooms, or features, of the overriding structure. If the bedrooms were removed from the mansion (or the miles of tracks from the mine) the players might feel disconnected, or worse, feel that they’ve missed something. This could cause them to check for passages or loop back to previous rooms.

If the DM just created maps of the key important rooms, the whole encounter would feel very railroaded.

DM Tip: Dyson's beautiful map - lots of unimportant rooms too
Lots of unimportant rooms bring this dungeon to life
(The Hall of Bronze by Dyson Logos)

If the deranged mayor lived a life of luxury in his mansion, wouldn’t he have servants? Wouldn’t they need their own quarters. What about the kitchens and pantries needed to fill the dining room with sumptuous food. What about the secret passageways used by the servants to move around the house, unseen by their master.

Areas and buildings, just like players, need fleshing out.

They need their own backstory and need to feel like they serve their intended purpose.

That is why DMs add unimportant rooms.

 

The DMs unimportant room quandary

The DM wants the world to feel realistic, they want the players to believe their characters are in that building. They want their players to feel immersed in the world they’re creating, so create detailed ‘realistic’ blueprints.

The problem is the players never want to miss a clue, a hidden room or a secret piece of treasure. They often over-check locations for fear of missing out (FOMOs)

DM: Would you miss out on all this treasure?
Fear of Missing Out all this treasure
WarframeZeeker’s gorgeous render of a gold laden room

The DM could remove the unimportant rooms, which would help the players stay focused and not lose focus. The downside to this is the players may feel railroaded, knowing full well that a mansion should contain dozens of other rooms.

 

What not to put in unimportant rooms

One key thing I would say is never put key items or NPCs in unimportant rooms.

If players can’t proceed because they’ve missed a vital clue hidden in a tiny inconsequential store room – the next dungeon dive those players will check every room.

The caveat to this could be a mystery adventure where exploration of a mansion would be key – maybe the villain was tipped off and is now hiding somewhere in the grounds – or the necromancers orb of resurrection was stolen and stashed away by a servant. Maybe the whole plot hangs on characters being duped into thinking the sorcerer in the tower is the villian when in reality its his servant boy, a cunning spy, who is really the protagonist.

If you’ve accidentally given the PCs a powerful item and need it gone, see our tips on DM’s getting rid of an overpowered item.

Method: Pressure the PCs into not searching

One way you can stop your players from flipping every table is to instill some kind of negative consequence for their delays.

Maybe the players are there to free captives, but every long delay the players hear the faint screams of another victim.

How about if one of the characters is poisoned, every hour they continue on their adventure they must make progressively harder constitution saving throws.

 

 

Method: Make the rooms unimportant by description

We all know the throne rooms important, or the main crypt, or the temples alter room. Players are drawn to these places like magnets, and for good reason. On top of the assumption they’re important, the DM will add extra effort to the description of these rooms so that they really stand out.

By reverse, they could signify a room’s unimportant by simple describing it as follows:

DM: The door opens onto the mansions kitchen. It has all the usual kitchen units and items, but lacks anything of interest to the party

You’ve nailed it, you’ve already told the players there’s nothing of interest.

With a bleak description, which room's unimportant here
Rooms unimportant = Bleak Description
(Empty Old Room by ladee-stock)

If the characters decide to search the room regardless, without rolling a D20 you could simply say “a quick search doesn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary”

I would say the key here is NOT to roll for perception.

If you roll a dice, regardless of most results, the players won’t know if they’ve missed something or if there wasn’t something to find in the first place.

If you don’t roll, the players know that there’s nothing to find because they can’t fail. They know your statement is true and that there’s not something they’ve missed.

 

…but unimportant rooms should be beautiful too

Yes that room’s unimportant, but as the DM I feel you still have to convey how the room looks, smells and feels. That probably couldn’t be easier than a kitchen.

Cosy medieval kitchen
(Pic from dubemichael.info)

DM: The door swings open to a wall of warmth and smells.

The smell of sweet pastries and cooked meats greets you in the doorway, while the crackle of the fireplace comes from the roaring fire in the opposite corner.

Flanking the window two tall wooden units bow under the weight of fine crockery, vases and pots.

Yet despite the freshly chopped vegetables on the old wooden table in the middle of the room and the bubbling pop of water by the fire, the room is empty of life.

I would much prefer to describe the unimportant room like this, the room still has life.

 

Method: Passive searching those unimportant Rooms

One mechanic that Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition added, which could be easily added to any RPG, is that of passive perception. This is there perception score as if they rolled a 10 and added their bonuses

This passive perception is what the user would notice under normal unpressured situations. They’re not distracted but equally not spending a prolonged period of time looking.

Dark stairs. What room's unimportant down here?
Stairs down into dark
(Pic from The13thFloor Website)/

If you use passive perception in unimportant rooms, you as the DM will know before they’ve even entered the room what they’ll find.

You descend the stone staircase and enter a dank, humid dark room, barely 10 foot across and the same deep. The rough stone floor is partially flooded under a few inches of thick, foul smelling stagnant water.

(With the characters passive perception being above the DC to find mundane items)

You scan the room using the flickering light of your torch. Rotten discarded sacks lay in the water, their swollen content rotting in these putrid conditions.

A small sword stand, moss and algae covered, fills one of the walls. Several swords still slotted into their place, but their blades now dulled by rust, the passing of time and the constant submergence in water.

It should be fairly obviously theres not much to this room, yet it still has a nice description that portrays the conditions and layout of the room.

If the players are paranoid they’ve missed something and want to search the room further, such as ‘Taking 20’ in Pathfinder or D&D 3, they can still do so.

 

Explain before the next session

If necessary, sit down with the players before the next session and explain to them they don’t need to turn over every room.

Tell the players that the maps you’ve created follow some logical rules:

  • the expensive items will be far from the servant quarters
  • the treasure won’t be hidden in a drawer in a common room
  • the evil queen won’t be found in a dusty store room in a basement

If the players are actually trying to locate every coin in the house, you could come to some agreement that given time, the characters would find an additional X amount of gold.

 

Thanks for reading guys. I’ve put together a bunch of tips for new DMs if you want to read that too.

HELP – I accidentally gave out an overpowered item!

HELP – I accidentally gave out an overpowered item!

Whether it be down to inexperience on the DMs behalf, blue-sky thinking by the players or the luck of the dice, sometimes the players end up with an item that is so overpowered that it’s potentially game-breaking. How can you, as the DM, deal with this overpowered item?

Maybe the players fought hard to battle their way through a dungeon, passed the decoy treasure and found the real good stuff hidden in a secret room.

You, as the DM, roll on a table of random magic items, hoping they’ll get a Sword of Flame or something… but they get a Staff of Time-Stop.

Coveted Staff
The coveted staff (Pic from DNDBeyond)

A session or two later, where the players have literally obliterated everything you’ve thrown at them, you realise this staff needs to go!

To give them their dues, the players probably also realise ‘hey this weapon is ridiculously good!’

So how as the DM should you deal with a overpowered item you accidentally gave out?

Your possibilities basically give you 3 different paths to take…

Bad DM Choice: Remove it

As the DM you have power over the world, you could simply click your fingers and have the item disappear. Without rhyme or reason.

Or you could add a bit of flavour to it; tell them some rogue crept in and stole it while the players slept. Maybe they even used Mass Sleep on the players so even the guard fell asleep.

However this breaks the illusion of the world and the game. The players know you’ve granted them their equipment, but they feel like they own it. If you just take something from them, they will literally feel like you’ve stolen from them. Especially if they are beginning to reap the benefit of this magical item.

Better DM Choice: Curse it

A better way to handle this as the DM, is have the overpowered item slowly but methodologically curse the holder, or the players.

The players be cursed (Pic from D&D Wiki)

This could be a curse or poison you find in the Dungeon Masters guide, or it could be something situational.

Maybe every night the player who beholds the item is visited by wraiths, trying to claim their item back from the living.

The curse could even be as subtle as a Con DC15 saving throw every night, failure means the character is tormented by repeating visions every time they close their eyes, a long rest is not possible this night.

Equally, it may not be the PCs that are affected by the consequences. Maybe those wraiths are drawn to the vicinity of the staff, but are unable to find it without tossing the town – house after house – villager after village.

This gives players the idea that owning this powerful item has consequences.

Being cursed could also mean the characters are ‘cursed’ with attention – constantly being asked questions and never giving the characters any moment of peace… which leads nicely to…

Best DM Choice: Covet it

My favourite way of dealing with such a situation is to dive into the problem with both feet.

If the characters are benefiting massively from this staff, don’t you think that other people in the world would want it to.

The DM should make the players overly aware that their new overpowered item is bringing lots of attention their way.

But who would covet such an item?

The overpowered item amid the world

The characters have a staff that can stop time temporarily – that would be incredible useful to the Kings military captain. How much stronger would the army be if they could loose a dozen salvos of arrows at their target while the enemy stands stationary before them.

Or maybe even the local assassins guild, what a perfect device to grant them access into the Kings palace – they could literally just walk in. The thieves guild could run scams and robberies by just walking out with the gems.

How about even the jumble local baker – he could prepare so much more bread in a day, and actually turn a profit for his growing family. All he needs is a bit more time in the day.

My point being, make the item coveted by others. Have the Towns Guard summon the characters to an audience with the King.

Summoned by the King Art by Throne Room by Spooge

Have the baker beg for the characters services.

You could have the characters hear rumours that the assassins guild is looking for them throughout the town. Maybe even the tavern owner uncharacteristically throws the characters out on the street, for want of their being blood-spilt in this tavern.

Make them see lurking shadows and hear soft footsteps behind them.

Make them paranoid.

‘Seize me that staff!’

Eventually you could have the king seize the staff, or the assassins steal it, but give the players lots of foreshadowing.

Maybe the baker doesn’t pay his bills one day, instead diverting all his spare coin to a bunch of local thugs.

The thugs jump the players one evening, if they make off with the staff, the players over time hear of this great upstart businessman who makes the finest produce in all the land. Or perhaps the small taste of crime has whet the appetite for more…

Hope this has helped give a few suggestions on what to do when you’ve accidentally given out a overpowered item in Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.

D&D: What is ADVANTAGE on attack and skill rolls?

With the release of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition came the new mechanic of advantage and disadvantage when you rolled ability checks or attack rolls. What is advantage, what does advantage mean and how does it affect your odds?

Divine spells, monstrous creatures, skills, player classes and many other aspects of Dungeons and Dragons can be affected by advantage.

 

What is advantage and disadvantage?

What is advantage? Simply put, if you have advantage when you’re making an ability roll, you get to roll two D20s and you pick the HIGHEST.

What is disadvantage? It should come to no surprise that disadvantage means you roll two D20s and pick the LOWEST.

It’s a simple mechanic, easy to pick up, apply and remember.

 

Advantage can easily be handed out by the DM, they no longer need to think:

Would this situation grant the player a +2, +4 or a +6 bonus to their roll?

The DM can easily just say:

You’ve got advantage to that next roll

Just as its easy for the DM to hand out advantage or disadvantage, it can be added as a side-affect to spells, feats and skills.

 

Maybe that powerful staff you’ve given out grants the wielder advantage on every attack under a full moon.

Maybe you created a magic item with advantage, not knowing quite how it affects the odds. Now the players are unstoppable, landing attack after attack. If this is the case, read here on how DMs can handle overpowerful items.

 

Equally it can be added to monsters under special circumstances, for example, a doppleganger has advantage on all attack rolls against any creature it surprises.

Dopplegangers get advantage in DnD5E
Dopplegangers get advantage in DnD5E
(Pic from Forgotten Realms)

What if you have both advantage AND disadvantage

If you are granted advantage for one reason but receive disadvantage for another, they cancel each other out.

It is important to note that they don’t cancel each other out 1-for-1, if you have any amount of both, you just make a single D20 roll.

 

What’s the real bonus from advantage?

What is advantage? We now know advantage is the best of two D20 rolls, but how does that affect the average dice roll?

A single D20 will produce any given number, on average, 5% of the time (1/20th)

That is, you’re just as likely to roll a 20 as you are a 1.

However when you roll 2x D20 and pick the highest, for advantage, the odds of getting a 20 as your result are higher than that of a 1.

 

Getting a 20 as a result of advantage

As mentioned above, a natural D20 rolled once will get a 20 as a result 5% of the time.

Rolling a 20 with advantage. In fact with advantage you’ll roll a 20 almost 10% of the time. That’s, not surprisingly, almost double you’re normal chance.

Rolling a 20 with disadvantage. Sadly, if you’re looking to get a critical hit and you have disadvantage, you’re only going to get it 0.2% of the time.

Thankfully most of the time you’re not looking to roll a nat’ 20.

 

Getting 15 or higher as a result of advantage

A DC15 roll is fairly standard for both ability checks and attacking enemies.

Normally with a D20, you’d roll 15 or better 30% of the time.

Rolling a 15 or higher with advantage. Here we see a huge swing in your favour. Rolling a 15 or higher with advantage will happen almost 51% of the time!  So you’re actually more likely to succeed than you are to fail.

Rolling a 15 or higher with disadvantage. Needless to say, with disadvantage you’re only going to be succeeding 9% of the time. Ouch.

 

RS Conley from RPG stack exchange sums up what the D&D 3rd edition dice +/- modifier would be to roughly equate to advantage/disadvantage:

The general rule of thumb that in the mid range of the d20 (from success on a 9+ to 12+) advantage grant roughly a equivalent to a +5 bonus and disadvantage a -5 penalty. The increase and decrease in odds tappers off when your odds of success approach 1 or 20. For example a advantage on a 19+ your chance of failure goes from 90% to 81% not quite a +2 bonus on a d20.

 

So if you’re trying to convert old style modifiers, even if its just in your head, see advantage and disadvantage as +/-5.

 

Want to read deeper into the statistical analysis

We won’t go deep into the statistical analysis of rolling advantage in D&D#5E, but if you want to read those maths heavy topics you can read these two; Bob Carpenters article – Probabilities for Advantage and Disadvantage or Sterno’s question on RPG Stack Exchange.

 

Examples of RAW D&D5E advantages

Here are some examples of where advantage and disadvantage are applied, as mentioned in the PHB, MM or Dungeon Masters Guide:

 

The fighters ‘protection’

Training for years, the fighter not only knows how to inflict damage, but also how to shield friends from it.

If a creature within 5 foot of a fighter class character, an attacker suffers from disadvantage.

Protection falls under fighting style on page 72 of the Players Handbook

 

The ghasts ‘turning defiance’

The evil undead ghasts dwell in dark places of decay, feasting on decomposing flesh. You’re likely to smell a ghasts lair long before you’ve seen it.

If players were to cast spells to try and turn any undead creature within 30 foot of the ghast, their turning defiance feat grants all those fellow undead advantage.

 

The gnomes ‘stone camouflage’

Far below the surface of the world dwell the strong yet short race of the deep gnomes. With their pointy ears and bulging muscles, they’re at home amongst stone.

If they’re ever trying to hide or creep within rocky terrain, deep gnomes can use their stone camouflage to gain advantage to their stealth dexterity rolls.

 

Divination ‘foresight’ spell

At ninth level, a druid may cast the powerful spell of foresight.

For 8 hours, the spell of foresight grants the target immunity to being surprised, as well as advantage to all attack rolls, ability checks and saving throws.

If this wasn’t good enough, creatures fighting the target are at disadvantage for all their attacks.

Looking at how advantage and disadvantage affects the odds, that’s some powerful magic right there.

More can be read about the foresight spell on page 244 of the Players Handbook.

 

‘Dodging’ in combat

If a character shifts his focus in combat to be purely defensive, he forces any attacking creature to attack with disadvantage. At the same time, the dodging character gains advantage on all their dexterity saving throws.

More can be read about the dodge action on page 192 of the Players Handbook.

 

Further Reading

Now that you know what is advantage, you’re hopefully a master of dishing out advantage and disadvantage so read out top tips for new DMs.

Top 6 Tips for new DMs

Top 6 Tips for new DMs

One thing the table-top RPG (TTRPG) community is very good at is sharing titbits of knowledge and wisdom on places like Twitter. The tips for new DMs can be for planning the next gaming session, how the DM should conduct the play at the gaming table, or how players can contribute and enhance the night for everyone at the table.

Are you an inexperienced or new DM, do you need some tips? Then read on.

I’ve collected my personal top 6 tips for new DMs – though I’d say they’re just as applicable if you’ve been DM’ing for years. The tips shown here are from Twitter and I’ve paraphrased their wise words.

I found many DM tips online, some for world building, others for pepping up random encounters and some for making whole new races. Those Tweets I’ve put aside for later RPG articles. This article is just focusing on new DMs.

The tips below should help new DMs through core principles and contribute to off the shelf starter boxsets, as well as boosting their engagement with their players.

new dm tips song ice and fire rpgIn this article the tips for new DMs are RPG system agnostic, so it doesn’t matter if you playing the iconic Dungeons and Dragons, the current day settings of D20 Modern or Game of Thrones version of A Song of Ice and Fire.

If you prefer the term GM (Games Master), or Story-Teller, over Dungeon Master (DM), please substitute it in this article as you read on.

The tips are not necessarily aimed at home-brewed campaigns, but IMHO that would suggest a more experienced DM anyway. If you are a new DM and you are running your own adventure, or even campaign, then just give yourself a bit of extra time to plan ahead. (We may even do a blog post for DMs coming up with their own home-brewed content soon – stay tuned)

 

Tip #1: Focus on running a FUN game

Don’t take your DM role too seriously. You main job as a DM is to help your players have fun.

Misconception: The players are there to play the DMs game. This is wrong.

Reality: The players are there to play THEIR game of D&D (Pathfinder etc). You as a DM are there to HELP tell THEIR story. If the players don’t have fun because you’re too busy forcing them to play YOUR game, you won’t have a regular gaming group.

Tip for new DM: Just play the game. Play the game, have fun with your friends and enjoy yourself. Whatever the game is, just go have fun around a table slinging dice.

As @cbsa82 puts it:

Tip for new DM: Just play the game. Play the game, have fun with your friends and enjoy yourself. Whatever the game is, just go have fun around a table slinging dice.

Remember that the G in RPG stands for GAME.

Focus on being a great host.

 

Tip #2: Don’t over prepare. Improvise

Misconception: As a new DM you may feel like you need to plan everything to the letter, otherwise it’ll ruin the game.

Reality: Plan the basics – but plan to improvise.

Improvisation at the table may seem scary, but in reality its easier to improvise than it is to plan for everything.

Tip for new DM: Plan only what you need to plan. Force yourself to improvise at the table

Tip for new DM: Plan only what you need to plan. Force yourself to improvise at the table.

The hardest thing I find to improvise however, are names.

I like to keep a few lists of names nearby; names of towns and people mainly.

For example, if your players suddenly decide to quiz the innkeeper about what town is down the Eastern road and you haven’t prepared for it, whats better:

A) “Oh down the Eastern road… that’s… mmmm… Easter Town”

or

B) “Oh down the Eastern road, (glances to small note)… 30 miles out you’d come across the sea-side town of Hollowharbor.

 

Tip #3: You’re not your DM hero

Most of us participate in, watch or listen to other role playing games, as well as DM. Most of the DMs in those games have been doing it for years, or even decades. Please don’t aspire to be them in your first few months or years.

As @snickelsox puts it, if you’re just starting out on your DM’ing path, worry less about how your DM hero does it, and more on encouraging fun that flows naturally at the table.

 

Tip #4: Let the players do *some* of the work

Tip for new DMs: Use small tricks to get players into the story. Have them describe killing blows. Have them identify interesting physical traits of monsters. Have them describe details of locations.This tip for new DMs is by @SlyFlourish and is one I have used before but not nearly as much as I should have.

Tip for new DMs: Use small tricks to get players into the story. Have them describe killing blows. Have them identify interesting physical traits of monsters. Have them describe details of locations.

Now I should explain why I’ve put a line through part of SlyFlourish’s tip. I agree with the part, but I believe that if you’re a new DM and your players aren’t accustomed to various monsters, they may give game breaking physical traits to monsters which you then have to juggle. As a DM you could either allow that trait to be applied, or undercut the players description. Either way I believe it’d add extra work where you don’t need it.

 

Example of players in control

So how can this work, well here’s a little example:

Beth (playing Kithdrey Axesmith): … my great axe deals … (rolls) … 8 points of damage, plus critical damage… so another (rolls) 4 points. 12 in total!

Alice (DM): Okay… your axe swings down and makes a solid impact with the ogres already bloody head. The blade cuts deep and you hear the crushing of bone and squelching of brains. As you remove the axe the limp body slumps to the floor with a reassuring thud.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s got some good sensory description in there and theres no confusion over what happened. But what if you let the player describe the kill every now and then.

Beth (playing Kithdrey Axesmith): … my great axe deals … (rolls) … 8 points of damage, plus critical damage… so another (rolls) 4 points. 12 in total!

Alice (DM): Okay thats a huge amount of damage. Describe to everyone what it’s like as you kill this ogre.

Beth: Yes! Okay first I swing the axe over my shoulder. When I notice the ogre drops its defense slightly I swing the axe violently over my head. It catches him on the side of his neck and sprays us all with thick warm blood.

Alice (DM): Brilliant and gruesome. As you retrieve your axe from his neck the lifeless body hits the floor with a reassuring thud.

Now this time the player has been allowed into the process of explaining exactly how the ogre is killed. Yes she rolled the dice which ultimately did enough damage to kill the ogre, but by getting Beth to describe what happened, she’s been integral to the kill.

Notice how the DM clarifies at the end that the body is lifeless, just in case anyone at the table thought the ogre was alive with Kithdrey’s axe in its neck.

 

Tip #4.1: Bonus Tip

Sneaky bonus tip for a new DM here, that builds on the above.

When entering new locations, get the players to describe the finer details to non-essential objects or views. Here’s a quick example:

Alice (DM): As you pass the large bay window, your eyes are drawn through the clear glass panes to the vista beyond. Lavish gardens with neat flower beds radiate from the house. The lines of shrubs are neatly trimmed and look lush and healthy.

Again – perfectly acceptable. But how about this:

Alice (DM): As you pass the large bay window, your eyes are drawn through the clear glass planes to the immaculately kept sprawling gardens beyond. Describe to me what you see out there.

Charlie: I see several large ponds glisten in the summer sun. The rows of trees provide little shade, but are finely clipped and are obviously well taken care of. Several paths snake away from the house, one of which seems to lead to a hedge maze in the distance.

The DM has traded a small amount of control over the world to the player, but in return has received a great hook for a future adventure if she so wishes. The maze – what does it contain?

Obviously you can’t use this everytime a description is needed, but it can be refreshing to have the players contribute to the construction of the world.

 

Tip #5: You’ll make mistakes, don’t worry

One thing that many new DMs worry about is getting stuff wrong in front of their friends and family sat opposite them.

Maybe your cleric tried to turn a skeleton and you forgot that the nearby ghast should have granted it advantage (Read about D&D 5th Edition Advantage).

DMs see themselves as the story teller and guide, but what happens if the story goes wrong or the guide takes them the wrong way. What happens if you implement one of the rules wrong?

What happens? Well in truth, they probably won’t even notice.
DM Tip of the Day: Don't be afraid to get things wrong sometimes Usually you'll either get a rule wrong or a campaign setting wrong.@thegmstable says:

DM Tip of the Day: Don’t be afraid to get things wrong sometimes

Usually you’ll either get a rule wrong or a campaign setting wrong.

Some problems, such as accidentally handing out a super powerful weapon can be handled later or even become a plot point. Read my article on how to handle the mistake of handing powerful weapons.

Making judgement calls on unknown rules

If you get a rule wrong, or don’t know what rule needs to be applied, make a note of it for later. Then to deal with it, simply make a judgment call on whether what the player is asking for is trivial, easy, medium, hard, difficult or nigh on impossible to achieve.

For each level of difficult you think it is, make them do a D20 check with roughly the following DCs: Easy DC10. Medium DC15. Hard DC20. Difficult DC25. Nigh on Impossible DC30.

How about an example: a player falls down a pit, what is his chance of climbing out:

The pit sides are rough natural rock – make it easy: DC10

The pit sides are cut stone blocks – make it hard DC20

One thing to note though – try to be consistent. Players won’t mind you implementing a rule in a certain way, but if the next time it comes up you’ve changed it again, you’ll catch them on the back foot. The exception to this is at the start of a new session, hold your hands up and say you’ve read up on that specific rule and if everyones happy, you’ll now be playing it different.

If you do make a mistake, say give out a powerful weapon that you soon realise its TOO powerful, have NPCs covet the item. Read more about the DM handling overpowered items on my other article here.

 

Tip #6: Confused by player creation? Skip it

DM Tip: Need a last minute character? Dungeons and Dragons has per-generated character sheets of levels 1-10 on their websiteThe @Grand_DM  has some great advice here, which although is specific to the Dungeons and Dragons world, can easily be applied to Pathfinder and most other TTRPGs.

DM Tip: Need a last minute character? Dungeons and Dragons has per-generated character sheets of levels 1-10 on their website

Character creation, if you don’t like it, can appear as a massive swarm of attribute numbers, page turns and contradictory (or is it complimentary) factors.

If you just want to crack on with play, grab some pre-rolled characters. Read their background and their motives, then get playing.

Once you’re engrossed in a RPG system and fancy making your own character, read up on how to create one.

 

TL;DR

Here’s a summary of the tips for new DMs. A massive thank you to those I’ve quoted, it’s their advise on show here.

DM Tip #1: Focus on having fun. If you have fun it doesn’t matter about mistakes or blunders you’ll make

DM Tip #2: Over preparing is a thing – don’t do it. Learn to improvise – it relieves a lot of pressure.

DM Tip #3: Don’t try to replicate the behavior or results of your favourite dungeon master. They’ve got years of experience. Be yourself and continually learn new techniques.

DM Tip #4: Get your players to describe their kills or their actions. Say less of “okay, you did X”, more of “okay, describe how you did X”.

DM Tip #5: You’re going to make mistakes. Don’t draw attention to it, don’t flap, just adapt and move on.

DM Tip #6: If you’re eager to start, use pre-made characters for your players