Players interested in becoming dungeon masters often have one simple question: is it fun to DM? There are quite a few different responsibilities that DMs take on, and the gameplay inherently changes from being a normal player in a campaign. Weighing the pros and cons of the position is important for anyone deciding to make the switch, whether just once or for most of their gaming needs.
Is it fun being a DM? Many people say yes. While there is an increase in responsibility, there is also an increase in creativity and control. In addition, you get to raise the rest of the group’s fun levels and provide great, memorable moments.
While being a “forever DM” may not be for everyone, there is something in the position that can appeal to any and everyone who wants to try!
DMs Have Fun When Players Have Fun
One core tenant you may hear tossed around often is that DMs have fun when players are having fun. This is definitely true! One of the key responsibilities of a dungeon master is ensuring that everyone at the table is having a great and engaging time.
While it is vital to ensure your players are having fun, be sure you are as well! It can be easy to overlook your own fun and warp your own methods to fit others. At the end of every session, the goal is for everyone involved – dungeon master or otherwise – to have had fun. No one player is more important than the others.
Creating Player Fun
Knowing that a DMs enjoyment of the game is often tied to their player’s enjoyment, it is important to figure out how to make players have fun. It can be a daunting task but a few simple tricks can help tremendously.
Some ways to create player fun include:
- Balanced Play – spread focus around the table so that all players get a chance in the spotlight.
- Engaging Characters – provide NPCs and enemies that players will want to talk or interact with.
- Keeping Open Communication – ask your players what they want to see! Then, incorporate it into the game as you see fit.
- Set Expectations – before starting play, talk to your players about the type of campaign everyone is expecting. This will align their characters with the tone of the game and ensure that nobody is blindsided (too much!) by any events.
There are quite a few other tips and tricks out there for making a fun game as a dungeon master, but following these few should help you hit the ground running. Ultimately, the best way to DM is going to depend on how you like the game, as well as how your players prefer to experience DnD.
Communication and learning your player’s habits are the two most important parts of creating player fun. For instance, if your group tends to get disinterested in combat but loves chatting up the townsfolk, include more opportunities for them to do what they love. Games will run smoother and keep players more engaged.
Keeping Your Own Expectations
While keeping in mind your player’s fun, it can be easy to lose your own enjoyment of the game. This should be avoided at all costs. A DM who is no longer enjoying dungeon mastering will simply not create fun games for anyone, least of all themselves.
When communicating with your players about what their expectations for the game are, be sure to include your own as well! If you want to run a game heavy with political intrigue but the group is more interested in a classic dungeon crawl, it may not be a good fit.
Walking away from a group that does not align with how you want to play the game is perfectly OK. You have just as much a right to enjoy the game as traditional players do. More opportunities will come!
Of course, compromise is great as well. Mixing playstyles to appease everyone in a group is often the best way to go about things, assuming general philosophies align. Commonly, this will happen as the player’s expectations around the campaign or characters grow. Give yourself the room to change things to match what players want, assuming it does not veer too far from your initial thoughts!
Working To Make Players Feel Awesome
The player characters in DnD, and most roleplaying systems, are heroes. The players should feel like it! One of the main jobs of a dungeon master, beyond the rules and running NPCs and other technical aspects, is making players feel awesome.
Especially as campaigns stretch on, players will grow attached to their characters. In addition, the characters will grow into incredible forces in their own right, able to cast ridiculous spells or strike down hordes of enemies in one blow. Let the players feel how awesome their characters are. This will help them to love their character even more, and make play more fun for everyone.
Vital to this idea is creating memorable moments and opportunities for players to shine.
Creating Epic Moments
DnD is a game fraught with moments and scenes across a variety of emotions. The tension of battle, the happiness of taverns, and the sadness of death are common across almost any DnD campaign. Moments of incredible feats, however, can often be overlooked or forgotten by new DMs.
Providing moments for players to do epic things with their characters makes the whole table have more fun. To many players, nothing feels better than getting the final blow on the big bad villain or saving a comrade at the last possible second. When they succeed, it becomes a story to be told over and over again, both in character and out of game. When they fail, these moments define characters and push the heroes on to greater heights.
To create epic moments in your campaign, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Let The Stakes Be High – memorable moments come about from the tension of failure. Don’t hold punches here!
- Give Players The Final Say – Did a player just get the final blow on the villain? Roll incredibly well on an intimidation check? Let players describe their success so they feel more attached to the action.
- Create Setpieces – Combat can always be improved by interesting terrain. Maybe the villain has a captive over a pit of lava, or magical rifts keep opening underneath the floor. Be creative!
All of these come back to the same main point: The easiest way to create epic moments in your campaign is to create environments where they can happen. Especially around epic moments their character will have, players should be the ones dictating what happens. Provide just enough stakes and fodder to feed their imagination and let them run wild.
Let Them Fail
Players should feel awesome because their characters are awesome. Still, DnD is a game of chance, and failure should always be a possibility. Across almost any good story, the heroes fail. This shortcoming drives them forward and makes the epic moments in the future even better.
To keep players on their toes and allow dramatic tension to run, do not always save the characters. If a noble dragon starts swooping down and saving them every time they are in over their heads, players will stop considering any threat too large. When assured they will be victorious, gameplay can become dull.
This does not mean purposely lead your players to ruin. Rather, if the dice fall as they may and the villain gets away, let it play out. Just because the characters lost one battle does not, most of the time, mean the campaign is over. Create scenarios for what happens now that the villain is ahead. What consequences are wreaked upon the world? These developments are now what the players need to deal with.
Making players feel awesome means creating epic moments, and this includes moments of severe loss. Keeping dramatic tension increases almost any player’s fun in-game, including the dungeon masters!
So, is it fun to be the DM?
Do I have fun being the DM?
If you are creative and interested in making something awesome for your friends to enjoy, then you will too!
Until next time, my friends,
May your game have advantage!
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