So you saw Stranger Things and you want to try Dungeons and Dragons. None of your friends wanted to play the role of the Dungeon Master, so you reluctantly did it. Your act set the snowball into motion of everybody now wanting to play. So, you buy the Starter Kit, but there are a lot of pages to read, and a lot of scenarios to memorize. You play the campaign for a bit, but get a little frustrated at how many goblin encounters there are in The Lost Mines of Phandelver, and you say to yourself “I want to write my own campaign and run my own adventure.” Wat do?
Here is a no-nonsense, quick guide on how to get maximum enjoyment for you, and your audience.
Step #1: Know Your Audience
Are you playing with close friends? Are you playing with friends of close friends? Are you playing with complete strangers? This knowledge is important.
This will allow you to gauge on how you want to write your campaign. If it’s close friends, you can make it as silly as you want. Fill it in with as many inside jokes and obscure JRPG background tracks as you want. If it’s strangers, you may wish to adopt a traditional Dungeons and Dragons setting. Towns, Caves, Bandits, Fairies, etc. Remember, being a Dungeon Master requires understanding and playing to your audience. It isn’t about following the rules.
Step #2: Determine How Frequently Everybody Can Meet
If you have ever played Dungeons & Dragons, you know that getting 5+ people together in a single room for 5 hours is one of humanity’s most difficult tasks. Therefore, it is important to understand everybody’s schedule. If you know people can only make it once a month, or, even more tragically, once a year, then you can expedite the adventure. Do not weave an elaborate narrative if you know that you can realistically get 9 hours of playtime in a single year. Make silly, one-off adventures that have a lot of story.
But, if you can make it frequently, do not hesitate to make the campaign as lengthy as you desire.
Step #3: Read The Player’s Handbook
Once you begin to be a Dungeon Master, do not read the Dungeon Master’s guide immediately. It is very hefty with a lot of specifics that will be nonsense to a reader who has never experienced specific situations.
What I do recommend, is that you understand your players classes, and their functions. Knowing their abilities can allow you to alter your story to give opportunities for everybody to flourish. You could, for example, have a Rogue character who has not had much of a chance to flex their lockpicking. Because of this, you could, all of a sudden, put locks on every box, to give them a sense of purpose. Note ALL of the class and race features, they will likely need explanation, and you will be there to provide it.
Step #4: Do not write novels
Okay, you’re all prepared, you understand the people and the frequency in which you can meet, now you need to get a story ready.
Write your story like this.
Like they are notes.
This is because your story will never go like you want.
This is a fact.
Your players will muck it up.
They will do something like sodomize a potato, if they are like my friends.
You must be ready to react.
You must be ready to tell a story.
But if you waste time typing a lot, it will be wasted time on your life.
I’ll stop this.
Step #5: Make Crap Up
This sounds really unprofessional, but you must be a master of improvising garbage for your players. As mentioned earlier, they will goof your campaign up, but don’t get frustrated! As long as your players are having fun, and they aren’t on their phones 95% of the time, it was a good night.
Do not be vindictive, however. Do not needlessly harm someone because of a vendetta. Make the bullcrap as impartial as possible. Everybody gets stupid situations.
Step #6: Always Say Yes
If a player’s idea is so boneheaded that it is bound to fail, always say yes. Never, ever say no. You are there to respond to your players. You have a story, and you are allowed to nudge players along it, but if they wish to spice it up, then say yes.
Ultimately, Dungeons and Dragons is so much fun, because of the freedom it allows for. What makes it so special, is the freedom, however epic, or trashy, the results may be.