Dungeons & Dragons is many people’s first experience in the world of tabletop RPGs. Part of D&D 5th Edition’s success has been because it’s a version that new players can easily understand while also keeping a mix of elements from previous editions for returning players. The new edition also has a lot of new Dungeon Masters creating adventures for the first time. Dungeon Mastering is a skilled art that can be a little scary. For those tables full of first-time players and first-time Dungeon Masters, here are a few things you can do to help out the person taking a risk on the other side of the screen.
RPGs have benefited in recent years from designers who have their feet in both the geek and improv worlds. One idea that really keeps the game moving is saying “yes” whenever the Dungeon Master tosses out a problem. If the players spend time refusing the quest of the shadowy man in the corner of the tavern, that’s less time for awesome heroics and witty banter. There will be time for more personal quests as the players develop their characters and the Dungeon Master develops the world.
Roll Damage and Attacks Together
Pacing is one of the areas where new Dungeon Masters often have trouble. Commanding a table’s attention for hours at a time is difficult, but even small things on the player’s side can help. Keeping combat fast is certainly something everybody wants. A good way for players to do that is to roll the attack and the damage at the same time rather than rolling one, seeing if it hits, and then rolling the damage if it does. The other dice don’t matter on a miss, but they might also give whoever is describing that moment of combat a little more inspiration if a big miss could have meant big damage.
Write Down Your Powers and Abilities Clearly
Everyone at the table should help keep the rules straight. They don’t have to be strictly followed, but the more things a player has written down on their character sheet is less time spent looking up spells or special abilities. Character sheets don’t always have a lot of room. However, even doing something as simple as writing down a page number next to a spell or an ability will speed things along until character abilities are second nature. (Tip: index cards are great to make personal reference cards for this sort of stuff).
Pick Up Your Own Supplies
Most of the time, the Dungeon Master buys all the initial supplies for a game. That can include the books, the dice and so on. This works when a group is just starting out, but as a campaign rolls on, it can be helpful for each player to pick up their own supplies. It can be simple as a set of dice to cut down on passing around a communal set. Or maybe someone can grab an extra Player’s Handbook to speed up rules consultations or reading the book to a greater degree in between games. Online resources can be a huge help here.
Be a Good Guest
A good Dungeon Master knows hungry players means grumpy players. Often they’ll share food (or even cook) for the group. There’s a lot of prep work, a wonderful experience if done right, and requires some cleanup afterwards. If the Dungeon Master is hosting, be sure to bring some snacks, drinks or other items that make the burden of hosting easier. If the game is at a bar or game store, show your appreciation by picking up a drink tab or buying snacks to keep the Dungeon Master working at peak efficiency.
Originally published on October 27, 2017.