Success Was Had - DMing Wins
Sometimes – against all odds – I do some things right
By MARK WILSON
Last month I had a grab-bag of notes from an old campaign that was my first full campaign as a DM. They highlighted a lot of the things I got wrong. This month, I’m looking at the opposite: stuff that I thought went really well, or where I made notes to myself that paid off in the long-run. I hope many are useful, and there will undoubtedly be 1-2 that every DM can benefit from on occasion.
Session 1: Communication was good on linearity. I want it to be more open eventually, but the players are on-board with more linearity during early sessions to establish the world.
“Previously on…” session summaries at beginning are good; help to set the tone.
Use the most logical monster; alter the stat blocks as needed. Also confounds players who may know some of the monsters’ stats.
Prompting players to be ready for their scene when the party splits is good. If you give them a little context before cutting away, they can prep more thoroughly.
You made a skill check work that a player asked about, even though it was a stretch that it could happen. Balance this, but good that it rewards curiosity and investment.
Give them a reason to use the maps you’ve provided. This was the first you’ve done that.
Ambient background music: cool. Anything more than that: usually not as much.
Monsters or items that aren’t level appropriate can be a great wakeup call for PCs. Not everything is balanced for their current level.
Lair actions. Great way to add variance to encounters, in ways that spells and abilities sometimes can’t. These seem underused to me in 5e.
If the current locale and plot isn’t tied to a character much, having things going on elsewhere in the world helps. If they know about it, cool. If they don’t, it will deepen the eventual character-based conflicts down the road.
First session in a while without a “go here, kill this” objective, which was refreshing. Always remember to mix up objectives.
Oh man, RPing dogs is the best.
Heavy RP sessions are fine, especially as players level and it’s hard to run more than one combat per session. Allow them freedom to explore in non-plot-specific ways.
A bat killed Xanathar?! Hilarious.
“Oh man, RPing dogs is the best.”
We’ll return to a more narrative form in the next blog, but I hope a few of these were helpful to you!