For all of you fresh DMs out there, allow me to spread something I’ve learned from DMing for my close friends.
This experience was about a year ago.
Being a DM currently running a campaign where the only people involved are my close friends has been a wonderful way to receive honest feedback without having my feelings hurt. That being said, I learned very quickly how one of my also DM players enjoys more combat, two others enjoy more plot, and the remaining two were happy with how things were. The issue was that it was almost impossible to find the right balance between combat and plot, and I was struggling to keep everybody interested at the same time.
I created an anonymous Goggle Form for them to give brutally honest feedback on my and the other friend’s campaign. Through it, I learned that my fights were only lackluster because…
they were pointless!
Most of the fights being had were random encounters from the PCs traveling. But from that point, only about 2 or 3 fights were actually important to the plot of the campaign. The solution was literally as simple as combining combat and plot together.
My advice to you newer DMs is, if your combat isn’t as important to the PCs as you want, then try incorporating more of the combat into the story. Do things like, give the PCs a rival, have one of their favorite NPCs be captured or forced into trouble by the bad guys, make them venture into a haunted dungeon full of the voices of everything they’ve ever killed, and such.
They’re fighting a band of orcs? Why? Is the orc tribe leader after their heads for killing some of his forces in a different encounter? Do the PCs have something he wants? Perhaps the BBEG has hired these orcs to slay the PCs? Try to give answers to these questions.
When I started giving the combat more story, and vice versa, I found that everyone at the table was enjoying the campaign because everyone had something to enjoy.
The biggest issue I found with this advice, however, was finding a smooth tempo that my PCs were comfortable with. You never want to have a session that’s ONLY story and RP just as much as you don’t want a session that’s only combat. However, finding the right tempo really just depends on what you learned if you had a session 0, and time. Patience, and time. Therefore, it’s critical that you understand who wants what, and necessary to try out different styles of DMing until you find what suits you and your PCs best. I’m not saying that you must change your entire game for people to have fun. I’m only teaching that a change in the players requires a change in you. Cause and effect.
Every group is different though, some want more combat, some want less. It all ties down to the importance of a session 0, but that’s a different topic.
No two tables of players are the same.
(I know this advice may seem really simple. But at the time I learned it, I had only been DMing for about a year or so. Simple info like this is what I needed).
- Don’t be afraid to change things that you like
- How co-DMing ruined a campaign for me, and taught me some valuable lessons.
- Cancelled My 2-year Campaign: Lessons Learned in the Trenches by a Stressed-Out DM
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "One of the first, and most important lessons I learned when I was a new DM" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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