12 Things I Wish I Would Had Known Before Running My First Game

  • Don't ignore older Editions, no system is complete.
  • Story happens during play, not during prep.
  • When players can try anything, there is no such thing as balance.
  • Challenge is dictated by the players, not the math.
  • Don't use 10 different monsters when just 1 will do.
  • Original ideas are easier to run than published ones.
  • Text-blocks are for the DM, not the players.
  • People wrote these books, learn from them.
  • Don't control players, react to them.
  • General ideas are better than specifics.
  • Resist using new ideas right away; let them develop as not to waste them.
  • Over-preparing is worse than being under prepared.

    Related Links:

    The Disoriented Ranger


    Methods & Madness  

    Pontos de Experiência  TRANSLATED  to English



Unknown said...

Short'n'sweet. I'm curious what you mean by your 4th point?
The 5th point, you are refering to a single battle, yes? As in, it's more fun to fight a single scary mofo and than grind 10 skeletons, right? Not re-use the same monster for every encounter. (Using a single monster is easier for the DM to use to its fullest potential and it gives more time for the players to play instead of waiting for 10 monsters to do their thing.

Jens D. said...

Great idea! I ran with it :)


RipperX said...

Hey Martin, really good to see you again :)

The fourth point is related to Core Challenge Levels. 2e suggests that you add up all of the PC Hit Dice and that number is how high your monsters should be. A great theory, but one that doesn't work. There are no clear and concise rules about this, especially once you get skilled players. To this day I have no idea what the exact formula is to designing mathematically challenging encounters; I just populate the dungeon or area and play to win within the defined perimeters I set up prior to play. The players are free agents, my monsters are not, that tends to tip the scale in the players favor.

In regards to #5, I found that players enjoy Themes, more than hodgepodge. It is related to ease of running the game, but one monster type perfectly integrated into the setting with a couple of wild cards thrown in here and there is very satisfying for everyone involved, you can build interesting back stories through descriptions and really focus on details which are appreciated by everyone.

A thieves guild of wererats just works best when they are the stars of the show. Dig deep, and focus on this one creature type.

I learned this the hard way, just because you own the MM doesn't mean that you should use every thing in it all at once. It's a disservice to it really.

What are some of the things that you took to long to understand, Martin?

Unknown said...

A thing I think a lot of people wanting to DM misunderstand is that, you are not telling a story - you are setting up the perimeters for the players to tell THEIR stories. Never plan too far ahead, because the players' story will change, and never only plan in one direction. When preparing for a session, I always try to think broad!

Yes, themes is a great strategy! I think it goes back to the basic idea that it should make sense. A few sessions ago, my party ran through a spider nest. Guess what kind of enemy lives there - correct, it was obviously full of mummies! All kidding aside, but it goes back to always asking your NPC's and even the "cannon fodder" why they are where they are and what their motivation is.

My party is heading for a new chapter (the naval/pirate-stuff I mentioned on reddit), and I have yet to design the enemies/encounters. The new setting will give it a nice change of pace and spice it up, but it should definitely be within the theme. I also try and keep it challenging - I fear I might be too easy on these guys, since 3 of the 6 players are new and it's their first character... I need to kill someone off. Maybe execute one of their helpful NPCs infront of them...

Unknown said...

Oh and the moment I enjoy being a DM the most, is when the party is talking among themselves on what they want to do, and how to do it and try and solve their problems as a group.
ESPECIALLY when there isn't any actual danger, but you've set up your dungeon/area up well enough that your players are on their toes. Last session I sat back and laughed with my inside-voice for a good two hours, just listening to the party cramming their brain on how to approach the next room.
Learning not to meddle, when the players are "immersed" like that and in "the zone", I think is a very important rule to remember. It also gives the DM a nice break where he isn't the one 'entertaining' and making stuff happen, but gives the DM a chance to listen, and maybe even work off, of the things being said.

RipperX said...

Great stuff Martin! Learning not to meddle did take me a long time to figure out; once I did I actually started to have more fun myself. I'm not above listing to them brainstorming and implementing their fears and ideas, especially when it is a better idea than mine.

Pedro Obliziner said...

Yeap, the last one was the most important for me, I really struggled with the notion of being ready for everything por a while before finding my own style.

RipperX said...

What is funny about that, Pedro, is that that one caused the most arguing. That doesn't mean that it isn't true, it's just that it is that hard of a lesson to learn.

Eric Diaz said...

Thanks for the inspiration and for linking it back!

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