View Full Version : DMing my first game.

06-19-2009, 02:10 PM
Hello everyone. I'm DMing my first game this saturday, and I need a lot of advice. First of all, it's me and 2 other players, and none of us have played before. I've read through the PHB and grasp the core rules pretty well. Is there anything that I should know about setting the game? Or anything in particular, but mostly the map/miniatures. All in all I'm a little worried this won't work out and no one will want to play again.

Forgot to add I'm using the adventure A Dark and Stormy Knight. It says that it's for four PCs, but I think I could just cut some enemies out/make some weaker. Wise idea?

06-19-2009, 03:09 PM
It's a little close to the wire to be posting this.

The basics, as I see it:

Read the Dungeon Master's Guide.
Are the characters generated? If not, that's what you're doing this weekend, and I hope your players like it.
If the characters are generated, have you familiarized yourself with what they're like, and what their capabilities are?
The pessimist in me says to have another activity ready to go, so in case the actual session is starting to look like a train wreck, you can preserve some fun memories of the weekend, and maybe everyone will be willing to give it another go in the future.
Make sure your players understand that running a first-time role-playing game session is not a cake-walk. I'm not saying you should ask for their sympathy; they just need to understand that a first session is not always smooth sailing, nor is it necessarily indicative of what the whole game's going to be like.
I'm not familiar with the adventure, but if it's for four PCs, take some pruning shears to it. So, yes, it's a wise idea to weaken or remove the enemies.
Make sure you understand the flow of the adventure. What is each encounter and event supposed to accomplish? How do the events and and encounters occur? How does the adventure begin?
Rather than forcing the PCs along the pre-arranged route of the adventure, what are interesting and fun events that will happen if they deviate from the main path?
If the players are defeated or fail to solve a challenge, do you have a plan to make their failure interesting and engaging, rather than demoralizing?
If the players decide they're going to have their characters behave like anti-social psychopaths, do you have a strategy for talking them down?
Most groups I'm familiar with go through one to three challenging encounters in a three-to-four hour gaming session when they play 3rd edition. Unless that's all this adventure is, or you're playing all day and all night, don't expect to finish it off in one go. Having only two PCs will speed up play, but this being your first time will probably slow it down again.
You might want to stage a mock combat with yourself ahead of time to make sure you know what's going on.
If no one wants to play again, it's not the end of the world. Some people don't like role-playing games, and didn't know that until they tried them. Still, your responsibility as the Dungeon Master is to make this first game as fun and positive as possible, so do your best on that account. Despite the length of this list, sometimes just shrugging my shoulders and smiling helps a lot more than fretting about whether I did enough work ahead of time.
One more thing. If you follow the web comic Penny Arcade, I'm sure you know that Mike Krahulik, the artist, is a new Dungeon Master. There's documentation in the form of posts and podcasts from the time he was a beginning player, to his considering taking up Dungeon Mastering, through his first session, and on to what he's up to now. If your eyes are too glazed over to read that next page in the Dungeon Master's Guide, you might spend a few minutes investigating someone's parallel experiences.

06-19-2009, 03:38 PM
Since all of you are new to this, I would definitely have something else in mind as an activity should things not go well, whether it be a board game, cards, a movie, whatever.

My advice to you is to study, study, study. You can't get everything crammed into your head so quickly, but it sounds like you're running a pre-made adventure, so make sure you know what's going on and why. You might not need to cut out too much for encounters, but if you do, make sure it's not something that's essential to the story line. Also, even though the PCs are new to this, they should have the common sense to know when they are over-matched and try to make other plans. Over burdoning them by playing 2 characters each is probably unwise at this point, but you might be able to take on one of the extra 2 suggested characters as an NPC they hire for the adventure. That could help even things out a bit. More work for you though.

I would also suggest trying to find more people to play, as that will lighten the load for all involved. Even one additional person would be a big bonus here.

Just keep yourself focused and aware of what's going on. Everyone was a 1st time DM at one time, so don't feel alone. Use this as a learning experience, and pass that attitude on to your players as well, and you should all do fine in the end.

06-19-2009, 03:52 PM
Golden Rule of all RPGs... WING IT

dont spend an hour flipping thru pages looking for an obscure rule, monster stat block, spell... whatever

get imaginative & make it happen. its a FANTASY GAME. Some of my best memories of D&D are when I first started playing as a kid, and had next to no idea how the rules really worked. We made half of it up as we played & had fun doing it. That's the true spirit of the game...

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-19-2009, 03:54 PM
RealmsDM advice is good advice. http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/images/icons/icon14.gif

Two rules: wing it and have fun. If you follow these two rules, i guarantee everyone will have a great time.

06-19-2009, 04:08 PM
in terms of winging it, keep in mind the rule of averages. If there is something they want to do that seems menial, make the target roll low, but if it is something impossible, make the roll impossible.

06-20-2009, 04:15 PM
Thanks for all of the advice, everyone. As I had hoped, our session was postponed due to one of the players having to go out of town for Father's Day. So we're rescheduling for sometime next week. I've been reading both the PHB and DMG in bursts and taking notes on things I feel are important, to help stick them in my mind. I've also been rolling random characters to get used to the creation process, and staging mock combat as well, and so far it seems to be helping.

But by all means, don't stop giving me advice, it all helps :)

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-20-2009, 05:33 PM
Be sure to keep us up to date on your game, KylePhillipsFTW.

06-20-2009, 05:56 PM
I certainly will, I'm pumped for it.

06-20-2009, 06:20 PM
Have you already decided how you're handling character generation? If not, now that you gained a reprieve, it's time to figure it out. Whether you decide to use pre-generated characters or have the players generate their own characters, I think it's best if you let the players know as soon as possible. You don't want them to show up thinking they'll create their own characters only to be handed some premade ones, or vice versa.

The one method I don't recommend, especially for beginning players, is to ask them to make their characters in advance and then present them to you on the day of the game. That's an invitation to hard feelings and misunderstandings before play has even commenced: players may misinterpret the rules and have a character concept that hinges on that misinterpretation, or they may simply not be ready in time.

Making the characters in advance allows you to have an idea of what the party's capabilities are and how to adjust your game accordingly. Letting the players make their own characters gives them some stake in their characters from the outset, and as you're supervising the process, you gain both an understanding of the character's abilities and the player's mindset.

As RoryN recommended, stick to each player having one character and recruit another promising player if you feel the party needs more characters. Otherwise, I would settle with adjusting the adventure itself. I think it's best if you concentrate on refereeing, rather than trying to run an NPC alongside the PCs, at the outset.

06-20-2009, 08:42 PM
The players and I have previously discussed it and decided to generate characters just before our first session, and maybe running through some mock combat scenarios to gain our bearings before starting the adventure. I'm also going to be helping them create their characters as much as possible because neither of them have been through the process before.

I had some questions... but forgot them while trying to decipher this superfluously confusing rulebook >.<

If I think of any I'll make a note and post them here.

06-21-2009, 12:41 AM
*mumbles around a mouthful of chow mein* Good luck. :)

06-21-2009, 12:50 AM
Unfortunately, D&D is a game that is best learned by being lead by someone who's familiar with the game... If you can FIND someone who knows how to play to Dungeon Delve you and your players that's honestly the best learning ground I can think of. When you see the game in action, it's easy to learn. Question though... why 3E? I know some people still stick to it, it was a great edition... but it's still a really random choice. Did you inherit the books from someone? Or were they just super cheap at a game store? Because frankly I'd steer you to either 4E or Pathfinder (a 3.5E reimagining) myself over 3E.

06-21-2009, 11:29 AM
I bought the 3.5E books awhile ago before 4E even came out (not exactly sure when I got them) because I was interested in the concept. Now that I finally have a group, and have read the books on and off for the past... hmmm... maybe 2 or 3 years, I decided to stick with 3.5E, since I'll at least know more than the players.

But as to finding a DM, Grove City, Ohio is not the place to do so :lol: I just happen to know the only two willing to play. I can't drive either, and neither can the players, so us 3 playing together is difficult enough.

So... yeah.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-21-2009, 12:49 PM
And remember, if you feel like looking up a certain complicated rule will be to time consuming, just use your DM's power and make it up if you feel the conditions are conducive to game enjoyment. Your players will know no difference, and will appreciate that you kept the game flowing at a pretty consistent pace. It worked great for old school gamers, after all.

06-21-2009, 01:00 PM
Alrighty, I'll keep that in mind.

06-21-2009, 01:19 PM
One word of advice on winging it. Try not to let your players know you're winging it. Earning the player's trust (even if its misplaced) is important, and if they start to get the feeling that you're just making stuff up they may start to question you on everything. Later on, if they discover that you made something up, or you have to admit that you made a mistake (which is better than continuing to make the same mistake because you're afraid to admit it), hopefully your players will understand that you were trying your best to get on with the game and provide them with an enjoyable gaming session. They should appreciate the effort. And keep in mind that while it can be difficult to earn your player's trust, it is so easy to lose it.

06-21-2009, 02:14 PM
Ok, thanks. The adventure we're going to use is pretty basic, there aren't any parts that would require overly-complex rules for a beginner to follow. As far as I can tell...

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-21-2009, 04:37 PM
The game will be awesome. Cant wait to hear about it.

06-21-2009, 05:16 PM
I'll be sure to post here afterward and fill everyone in on the details.

Though we haven't even scheduled it yet :frusty:

Scheduled for Wednesday. Can't wait.

06-24-2009, 04:42 PM
Cool, we all eagerly await to hear how it went.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-24-2009, 04:54 PM
What cplmac said.

06-24-2009, 09:27 PM
It was awesome. I just wrote a very long post about it, but I'm an idiot, and accidentally closed instead of minimizing. I'm too tired.

But yeah it was great. Lots of action, not so much roleplaying though sadly. I think at our next game everyone will be more comfortable with it. We left off with a cliffhanger, our druid was just killed by a zombie bugbear! Well as I said earlier I am very tired so I'm not going to go into too much detail right now. May post a full story tomorrow if you all are interested.

Overall it was a lot of fun. Character creation took 2 hours... I thought it was going to fall apart. But once we jumped into the game we really enjoyed it.

Well I'm angry with myself for losing that huge post detailing the entire session. So I'm going to wallow in self pity for awhile. Yay! Only joking. I'll do it tomorrow if I can. We're thinking of having another session tomorrow, since one of the players is going on vacation next week. I'll update after (maybe before it, though a much smaller chance) and let you know how it went.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-24-2009, 09:54 PM
Very cool. Cant wait to hear more when you've recovered.

06-25-2009, 11:05 AM
Hey there guys I am one of the players that was in the game yesterday. It was all of our first game, and I was nervous that it wasn't going to be as fun as it should be.

When we sat down to make our characters only Kyle knew how to do it, and it was a lot of raising our hands and asking stupid questions, and it took us two hours to make 3 characters, is that bad?:biggrin:

But, once we got started, we didn't leave his basement except to eat dinner, and to watch a racoon in his neighbor's yard. There was more roleplaying than he let on, but we talked out of character A LOT because we didn't know really what to do.

I love it, and I'm hooked. And I just got on and read this thread and this looks like one of the nicest communities around. Almost Three pages without a single mean comment, I like it here.;)

06-25-2009, 11:37 AM

06-25-2009, 11:42 AM
If you guy's are playing DnD 3.5 you might want to look into picking up the "Rules Compendium". It will really speeds thing's up when you are looking for a rule. You can probably find it at nobleknight.com .

06-25-2009, 11:52 AM
Thanks man, I'll look into it.

06-25-2009, 12:13 PM
I'm glad y'all liked the game, that's the most important part. The character creation is always slow going when first starting, even with experienced people this can take time.

Okay ... a question for the new DM ... how are you going to deal with the fallen Druid? Allow resurrection? Have the player roll up another character? Have what Dragonlance called an "Obscure Death" in the old days?

I'm interested to hear how the game goes ... you should blog it :)

06-25-2009, 01:19 PM
Well as it turns out, he only has -1 hp, and I completely forgot about the difference between disabled/death. So he'll be fine as long as that zombie bugbear isn't feeling extra bloodthirsty :p

And if everyone survives the adventure then I may consider blogging it. If not, we'll roll new characters, and I'll consider blogging it again :laugh:

Part II begins at 3:30. Updates shall follow.

06-25-2009, 03:07 PM
^^ This post is really encouraging considering that this Friday is going to be my second time playing, first time DMing. I'm a little nervous to have 7+ players, but I think it'll turn out in the end. They're all my friends so it shouldn't be too bad.
Good luck to you! I want to hear more about it! I'm rootin' for you as a fellow first-time DM! :D

06-25-2009, 03:23 PM
3 hrs for character creation isn't bad for beginners. I remember when I made a character for rolemaster, it took like 5 hours.

06-25-2009, 05:04 PM
Yeah 5 hours seems to be the norm for most of my new table top players as well.

06-25-2009, 09:42 PM
Well we finished the first dungeon... everyone died! So, we just made new characters. The third player couldn't come today (the druid that was near death), so we just started with 2 PCs, with the intentions of him joining in the future.

Overall the second session was great. Combat and roleplaying basically switched roles this time around, with a lot of emphasis on the latter. The first hour and a half was just the two PCs (RAD5brandon, and the paladin from yesterday) talking and exploring the city of Tyberntia. No combat, no skill checks (except for maybe a sense motive or intimidate), just talking. It was a little difficult for me to pull off unique voices for every NPC they met, and my throat is in pain, but it was worth it :p

Then the barkeep at the local tavern told them of some wizards who live on the outskirts of town who might be able to direct them toward ancient artifacts, tombs, treasure, etc. Needless to say it didn't go according to plan.

Long story short... calzone golem. Golem made of pizza dough. The wizards had made a humanoid statue out of pizza dough, and made it self aware, you know, the usual. They dispatched it with an ease that almost frightened me.

Then they return to the town only to find the barkeep slain and a band of ruffians in control of the bar. That's it for that session.

It was a lot of fun. Now we just need to find the good balance of combat and roleplaying and we'll be set.

06-25-2009, 10:29 PM
You forgot to mention that we stole a candle from the Wizards' dining room, thinking they were dead. But it ended up with us being thrown out (again) of an establishment.

06-27-2009, 04:03 PM
Sounds like you guys are having alot of fun.

DMing/GMing is like anything else. There are tips and techniques, but the bottom line is... the more you do it, the better you get at it. Keep it up!

06-27-2009, 04:52 PM
Sounds to me like you did a great job Kyle. The players on the other hand...eh, they'll learn. I remember when I first started playing. Half the fun was laughing at your own blunders. One question though. You did say it was a published module right (I'm too lazy to go back and look). I'd just like to know the name of the module - so I can be sure I don't buy it. Sorry, but my players would throw me out if I told them they were being attacked by a pizza golem.

Also you should be proud of the fact that you're well into the third page on this post. You have a lot of people interested in your game. Keep up the good work!

06-27-2009, 10:18 PM
Thanks, that was very encouraging :)

I agree about the players though... I see posts about people being incredibly creative when mine are just... very mundane. It makes me want to just be a player.

The module was free from wizards.com. They told me to throw something together really quick and I told them straight up it was going to be weird. It was called Something's Cooking, and compared to A Dark and Stormy Knight i felt it was horrible. But they liked it, so I guess that's all that matters :P

06-28-2009, 12:13 AM
The golem kind of threw me for a loop, but hey, it's fantasy, right?

I remember when we first started playing back in the good ol' days, there was really very little role playing going on, because we just weren't experienced enough with the process. Given time, your players, as well as you yourself, will become better at it.

06-28-2009, 10:32 AM
Can't wait.

07-06-2009, 11:53 AM
Kyle, just keep plugging away and eventually you will be able to come up with a response to the actions of the players without any problem at all. Like I have said several times before, "At one point, every DM/GM was just starting out".

07-09-2009, 01:46 PM
Long story short... calzone golem. Golem made of pizza dough. The wizards had made a humanoid statue out of pizza dough, and made it self aware, you know, the usual. They dispatched it with an ease that almost frightened me.

Oh hey! don't have to worry about tonight's dinner either. :) Dinner's been served folks, eat up!

07-13-2009, 12:00 PM
Alright it's been a while since last update, sorry about that. We had our third session over the weekend. Starting at around 10:00 PM on Friday and ending at 5:00 AM Saturday :biggrin:. Granted the first hour or two was character generation for the player that missed the previous session. Anyway, it went pretty well. I'm thinking about blogging it and the previous sessions. What format would you people that might read it enjoy reading it in? Should I go for a straight narrative (something akin to a novel), my perspective as the DM (with numbers and such) or something else.


07-13-2009, 05:42 PM
I would like your perspective as the DM on how the game goes the encounters player's reactions and such if it isn't too much trouble.

07-13-2009, 05:45 PM
I was one of the players in this game and it went great. Having another one friday night and I hope it goes just as well :cool:


Sorry for missing the 2nd game and keeping us held up on the last game btw...

07-13-2009, 05:53 PM
Actually, one of the best techniques for recapping I know of is to have your players do it, whether it's IC or OOC... that way you can see what your campaign looks like from their perspective, see what leads they're probably going to follow, etc. If you really want to do it yourself though, keep it simple, and use broad strokes. "The party went here and did that because they were looking for ____ and while they were there, they encountered..." In all likelihood, your players will probably chime in with the parts that stood out to them.

07-13-2009, 07:49 PM
Like my awesome one-hit on that vampire!!!! I had to put it haha... I think I'm gonna DM on Friday... Haven't got the faintest clue what to do

07-13-2009, 08:25 PM
That was a ghoul, not a vampire. Though that gives me an idea.

07-13-2009, 08:37 PM
it was vampireee...

I have got something that sounds rly fun brewing atm
--- Merged from Double Post ---
Been typing for about 45 minutes and so far I'm pretty proud of my creation... Kyle finally gets to play instead of being a DM

07-14-2009, 08:35 PM
I finished the dungeon last night!!! So Kyle, you can finally play, and Brandon and Tyler, you just have to make new characters :p

07-15-2009, 05:56 AM
I ran that calzone mod once as the dm. it was pretty funny for the 3 first time pc's. they seemed to enjoy it and got them into playing more. Im glad to hear your rpging is going well and would love to keep reading!

07-15-2009, 12:48 PM
Alright well I've decided it would be easiest if I began the blogging after the next session that I DM (which hopefully will be around next week), with a very brief recap of the story before. I'm thinking by next session the PCs will have completed the story arc that I have set up for them. It's promising to be pretty interesting with a few twists and turns here and there. Can't wait until it unfolds.

07-15-2009, 07:53 PM
Actually, one of the best techniques for recapping I know of is to have your players do it, whether it's IC or OOC... that way you can see what your campaign looks like from their perspective, see what leads they're probably going to follow, etc.
Check out my blogs as an example!

07-15-2009, 08:14 PM
That was great! I'll definitely have to have someone in the group do one of those. Can't wait to read the next installment, cigamnogard.

07-15-2009, 08:18 PM
Glad you liked them. Next game is Sunday - expect a new post on Monday - Tuesday.

07-15-2009, 09:39 PM
Long story short... calzone golem. Golem made of pizza dough. The wizards had made a humanoid statue out of pizza dough, and made it self aware, you know, the usual. They dispatched it with an ease that almost frightened me.

My Friday DM used that. I did promise to hurt him.

07-16-2009, 02:36 PM
My Friday DM used that. I did promise to hurt him.

Where's the fun in that :p

07-16-2009, 08:35 PM
Tomorrow is my day of reckoning to see if I have decent DM skills lol

07-16-2009, 09:14 PM
Didn't I warn you about the pizza golem? :biggrin:

07-17-2009, 12:26 AM
Where's the fun in that :p

Gee, let me count the ways.

Bob the Dalek
07-17-2009, 03:39 AM
Oh Gawd I remember the Calzone Golem. I always enjoyed the fantasy to bejust this side of slapstick. Hope everything is still going well.

07-18-2009, 05:58 PM
Well my story was very well written and they seemed to like that, but I was not a good DM by any means lol. Rad5brandons turn next. But at least you gotta play kyle...