Mistakes Were Made

Learn from my blunders to avoid these newbie DMing mistakes

By MARK WILSON

I took fairly detailed notes during my first full campaign as DM, including making note of the many mistakes I made. Below are many of them, from various sessions through a campaign that lasted about a year and ahalf. Ideally, you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t make them at your table. The process of writing them out helped me immensely to correct them in my own DMing. Hopefully many do the same for you.

  • I forgot about {NPC} in combat. Have a generic miniature ready for unexpected NPC additions to combat.

  • Always be ready for combat. The PCs will fight ANYTHING. Didn’t have stat blocks for everything going on at the bar.

  • Your villain may die. This is not a problem, because they don’t know the elaborate plot hook she represented. Provide multiple entries points to the hook if this happens.

  • Do not ask PCs for input if you will only allow a single answer.

  • It’s ok to stretch a session to hit a good stopping point, but give up on tying a neat bow on each session. You can stop whenever.

  • Maybe jot down religious affiliations of cleric NPCs. Couldn’t remember Lathander when put on the spot, so now he’s a worshipper of a very strange god for a Neutral Good cleric.

  • Retcon the small stuff later on if you misspeak. Lathander it is for the cleric.

  • Write less notes. React instead of dictate.

  • Outsource friendly NPC combatants to the PCs if you can, especially for complex fights.

  • Drastically shorten sessions in public spaces. You will never have the group’s full attention like you do at home. This session was too long.

  • The Return of the King soundtrack is way too boisterous for background music.

  • No, you can’t make the dog combat-ready just so you can RP him all the time.

  • If you give them a map, they will use it. I’m proud of my players, but sad my gauntlet of death went unused.

“The Return of the King soundtrack is way too boisterous for background music.”

To be clear, the campaign was a rousing success that everyone enjoyed. The above notes are from some of the moments where I was unprepared, made a mistake or the unexpected happened. But it’s important to learn from both successes and failures within campaigns.

So, learn from my mistakes, lest you make them yourself!

What blunders have you had that made for moments of learning? Let me know on Twitter @BTDungeons, and if you enjoy my content, be sure to subscribe on Youtube!

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