Content of the article: "What I’d Tell Myself As a New DM"
I'll start by saying I am far from a Veteran. I've run one campaign. I'm proud of it, and thought "what would I tell myself if I could go back and give some advice?" So a lot of this is specific to my style, and anyone else should disregard things that don't fit into their style! In short: I'm not saying this is the RIGHT way to do things, just how I've figured out what works for me.
Bring a Brick, Not a Cathedral
You always here "don't over plan" and "players will always do things you didn't expect" but the way I've learned to think of it is that "it's not a bug, it's a feature." You have a unique opportunity to tell a story WITH your players. They are not just interacting with what you came up with, they are CREATING it with you.
Instead of planning every detail of a character, session, encounter, etc. just place a brick. Your players will place the next brick, and you'll build a much more interesting cathedral together.
If they're in a tavern, and are drawn towards the bartender more than the one legged half orc with an eye patch holding a glowing ruby that is so CLEARLY the hook you've planted… well, maybe that bartender IS more interesting. Maybe let that become the hook.
You'll have an instinct to get them "back on track" but trust them like you hope they trust you. Their whims will surprise you, and then you will surprise yourself at the story that unfolds.
Do Your Cool Idea Right Away
I've played so many games where we are working for weeks to get to the cool thing. What if you tried to have a Cool Thing every week? If the BBEG has a dragon, of course they can't fight it at level 2… But they could do a skill challenge trying to slow it down as it approaches a town. How could a zero gravity space battle happen THIS week?
Let them have an epic pirate battle right NOW. "But they're stuck in the dessert, that doesn't make sense yet, I'd have to-" Two galleons that glide in sand like water. You're creative enough to justify it, don't wait for them to get to the fun part, let the fun part arrive TODAY. Every week. Why not?
Think Outside of Dnd
Once a session, try to get your players to think in a way they normally don't in Dnd. Make them build a raft out of cardboard, staples, and three pieces of scotch tape. Make them speak in rhymes or take damage. Make them win a chess game in five moves. Make them write a song, remember the name of an NPC they haven't seen in weeks, tell each other a deeply held secret their character holds.
Build these things with your players in mind. If they're not excited by riddles or word puzzles, do something else. If having to sing would make them DEEPLY uncomfortable, make it one of several options.
The point is, you think a lot about ways to make the world feel fleshed out by naming more towns and writing longer backstories, but the GAME can feel more fleshed out if you make an encounter each week that makes them think in a way they don't normally have to in Dnd. It also gives them the chance to shine creatively that will be SUPER satisfying for them because THEY created whatever the solution is.
So What if Your Players Are OP?
You might be afraid that giving a player a super powerful magic item will ruin your game. You might think, what if I accidentally break my game? I say this: Cross that bridge when you come to it.
As a player, it feels awesome to get a new magic item, it feels amazing to get to do something big and crazy. If it gets out of control there are a million ways to fix it in game. Maybe they upset the gods, maybe the King agrees to give them their own piece of land if they agree to give it up, maybe the item breaks or is stolen, etc.
In the meantime, prioritize the fun they'll have moving a mountain or being immune to physical damage.
"If I was a player, I'd be PISSED if I got something like that and lost it." Sure, I get that, but if it really gets to that point I think a DM should be able to say "well there are ways to get it back…" knowing they'd be more level appropriate when they do, or if they're STILL upset, even just "That was fun, but it'd be way too much to just let you do that ALL the time" then they need to remember a big part of your job as DM is to make the game fun for everyone and God Mode gets boring after ten minutes.
Okay That's It
This forum has been unbelievably helpful to me. Some people will disagree with these points, and some people might outright think they're UNhelpful. If so, oops sorry, ignore these, I understand they're not for you. I just wanted to take a crack at contributing to a place that's given ME a ton of resources and I thought writing out what I'd tell myself if I could go back to when I started would be a helpful way to do it.
Thank you everyone!
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