Discussion  - 
 
So, my first couple dm sessions were pretty disastrous. Thank goodness the players were friends and a wife. They were clearly bored most of the time while I flipped through pages and fumbled around figuring things out. I wasn't expecting perfection, but I was at least expecting fun since everyone was excited beforehand. It made me wonder if anyone has thought of running some sort of old school dm "class" of sorts. Does anyone actually do this? Also, it has been a while since I've actually played so if anyone has any extra space for an essential newbie that would be great, too.
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Will Tijerina's profile photoRobert Schwarz's profile photoAlex Schroeder's profile photoGreg MacKenzie's profile photo
36 comments
 
How was the prep work? Have vital bus write out before hand?
 
I still have the odd bad game.
 
Labyrinth Lord. I thought my prep was decent, but both times my brain just crapped itself. It was embarrassing. I probably do need a screen of some sort.
 
On second thought, my prep must have been terrible if I was flipping through the book a lot.
 
(I'm not the blogger by the way, I just made my own screen from his great work.)
 
After a few attempts you start to figure what you really need to keep the game running. Make sure you have those things or know where to find them fast. If you need to search for something, it's often better to just make something up with whatever information you have. When in doubt estimate chances and have them roll percentile dice. That's my 2 or 3 cents anyway. Good luck with your games!
 
Another big thing - find out if the players actually were bored, or if it's just your impression.  It's often hard to tell.   If they ask you to play again, that's a great sign.  I would also recommend looking through the various gaming podcasts.  All of them have at least one episode on "GMing your first game" or something similar.  Lots of great advice.  Even the ones that aren't specific to LL are useful.  I've been running more games recently, and have enjoyed the ideas from the various casts.  (I or others can recommend some if you like - there are a lot.)
 
I don't know about a class. And without knowing specifically where you feel you lacked, I can't offer much more than general advice. But that's never stopped me before!  I recommend noting what you feel were the weak points, and work on correcting just 2 or 3 before next session. Go for easy wins since it sounds like you need a confidence boost. Also, I highly recommend this post:

 http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/06/on-set-design.html

It totally changed how i do my room descriptions and it works great at the table because it's always easy to see what's important and extrapolate from that.

If mechanics are getting in your way - see if you can recruit one of your players to look things up so you don't have to slow down play. If it's something like To Hit rolls, Saving Throws etc. maybe make an LL screen (there are a bunch of free ones out there too) so you can find what you need without flipping pages.

Otherwise, if you don't know something - just make it up. Be sure to note it to yourself to look it up before the next session. If you find you really messed it up, Inform your players how it will be handled going forward, so they know not to expect the same ruling next time.
 
You learn something every time you DM. Don't give up. Always look for ways to improve but don't beat yourself up too bad. Cheat sheets and/or DM screens are helpful tools. 
 
This is all good advice. I think some of it is nervousness. As far as the boredom thing goes, I'm fairly certain they were bored as they were new and trying to wrap their heads around everything. It certainly isn't monopoly, so to just describe a room and tell them to have at it kind of blew them away. It should get better. At least I wasn't trying to run Pathfinder. Nothing personal against it, just a ton of rules.
 
If you can't remember a rule at the table just make it up and keep going, you can always correct it later.
 
Are you new to the rules or just new to DMing?
 
You should run no prep full improv. Since you are not referring to a book the whole time things go faster and are more exciting. And watch your players' emotional response. When they are nor on the edge of their chairs throw things at them to get them there. When you work from a book you cannot do that at the right moment.

If you do use a module just read it through once to internalise the possibilities. Write your main monsters with their stats on a single page (so you don't have to flip pages) and use the map but not the room descriptors (so you dont need to read or flip pages). If you cannot reduce a room descriptor to one word you can write on a map then lose it and improv that room!
 
1) Start small.

2) If there is a question about a rule, make a quick decision to keep the game moving, and research it before your next session. Don't spend a lot of time looking stuff up. If you find your ruling is different than the rule, decide which you will use and then update the players at the next session before play starts. Stay consistent in you decision making and rules judgments but, don't also be afraid to change any rules to suit your game.

3) Re-read sections of the adventure the players are likely to explore a few hours before game starts.

4) If you feel flustered or overwhelmed during the game, have everyone takes 5 min break. Need a bio-break? Take some notes with you.

5) Try to not do everything yourself if you aren't used to it yet. Have a player track initiative if this happens to slow you down, for example.

6) Don't get too bogged down in the rules just yet. Start simply and work up from there.

7) Never say no to a player if possible.

On campaign design, check this video: Damn Good D&D: http://youtu.be/l6d5NvbMvT4


 
Ok, I have some advice. I would like to know what adventure you are running.
When I first started out as a GM I used to use Judges Guild Modules. Things have moved on since then, but you will find that there are a plethora of these things from fans and publishing houses. The important thing to realize is that unless you have a command of the material, an overview, you may have difficulty getting a sense of where it is all going.  You are also treading in someone else's footsteps. My personal advice is reduce your scope make your own 6-10 room dungeon, and roll up the monsters for each room. My early adventures went something like this; The adventurers start out at a local tavern where they meet. They hear a few rumours about some horrible hole and are offered either a guide to the spot or a map for a few coins. At which point they set off for the entrance. When they get there the guide leaves and they enter the dungeon. Now note that I provide no obstacles, save that for the dungeon. You should have a few words of description for the entrance to set the mood. Each room should have a description and may or may not have a monster 1 in 6. The dungeon should be on one sheet of paper. The idea here is to make sure there is something to do. You don't have to be terribly original here as the game takes on its own life as you play it. The monsters should have treasure, and make sure to allocate a few magic items among the treasure. You want the players to gain experience points and get a taste of the good things, those magic items. The players should find a shut door for example, listen, try to open it, let the players make STR rolls to open the doors, your giving them something to do and it involves them. If there are monsters inside, roll for surprise, and initiative to see if the players or monsters go first, and then follow the rest of the combat sequence for the player and monster groups. You will need those combat sheets to make your life easier. When you conclude each round of combat you re-roll for initiative. You can continue until one side or the other quits. Because these are new players, and monsters aren't dumb, you can decide if the monsters run away if things go against them or if they fight to the death, try  to bargain, etc. Players inevitably fight to the bitter end when they should withdraw. Remind the players when they are low on HP that it might be wiser to run away. Running away is highly under-rated. In any event the monsters don't have to follow the players beyond the entrance of the dungeon, making for a scary chase when you are low on HP. If the players defeat the monsters they should be rewarded with treasures... Now what I am really suggesting here is not a give away, players have to earn these things, but allowing yourself and the players to get a sense of what the game is about it won't hurt to be a little liberal with treasure starting out. When you make your dungeon you can allocate monsters randomly by the tables, but if something is really nasty move it to the farthest point away from the entrance and put in references to it in the dungeon. Kobolds have scrawled on the wall "Go Back end of Kobold Territory", or players might hear, "wait until ugly finds out" if the monsters are allied with whatever it is. As the GM you have the decision to place monsters. I usually pick the worst one, and go random from there. So stick with the basics, know your combat sequence, know the dungeon, and learn to improvise as you go along. Let the players clear the place out to give them a sense of accomplishment. Improvisation is all about giving the monsters some personality. You can swipe references from film or novels. The players will know them. Juxtapositions are useful does the Orc leader behave and talk and sound like a film gangster? "Gimmie all your coins and I'll let you go see..." Is one of the Orcs dumb and getting it wrong like one of the Three Stooges? He turns around a sets off a trap, a giant stone rolls through the middle of the room. Is one of them a coward like Ichabod Crane?Have fun with it.
 
Oh, I forgot to mention, allow the players to make several trips to and from the dungeon as they may have to heal up before trying again. New players won't complete this in one go. Compress the time this away time takes, reset the HP and spells, and carry on the story from the point so many days later. The Tavern or village is a sanctuary where nothing should happen at this early juncture. Some of their characters will be killed, that is part of the game. Re-rolling a character in the middle of the game is a pain for the rest of the players. It may be wise to have a spare on hand to hand out. I usually found that at the start of play if players are rolling up characters that'll eat up a good hour of the play session but it is absolutely essential to building the player-character relationship. Players often go to the Tavern to hire help. These NPCs you play, or you can allow a player to role play one when their character is killed. Players will sometimes simply take over the NPC for their own use since anything you make has to be cooler than what they came up with. ;)
 
My first sessions were shit. Only now it gets better, but still there is much flipping through rules and oh shit I didn't think of this.

The best class I was in was actual play with a dm who I think is a genius.

Maybe read the RIFTS Adventure Guide, it's golden. 

One important thing is to prepare open ended situations which also allow interesting choices (character play) or combat (tactical play).

When planning for combat encounters, try to imagine an interesting first person shooter map rather than a flat field on the desk. Position and line of sight are fun.

And, most of all, make the players' decisions count. Don't plan the outcome. Let them destroy your precious campaign.
 
I'm GM'ing my first game in a million years on a play by post forum. It's like GM'ing with training wheels, because the lack of real time means you can research and consider all you want before replying.
 
My current group is a young (9-13) and I keep it very simple. The only time books come out are for spells info which I make them look up ( like fumbling through their their spell books looking for something) I keep all my random charts simple enough to fit on 4x6 cards with NPC also. We are currently using castle triskelion which is very will layer out, do all I really need to do is add surprises.
As far as DM class... I have an NPC that travels with the group that offers advice that experienced players might/should know. When they miss something obvious or even subtle... He can kinda point in the right direction/suggestion. Been working well with this inexperienced group.....
 
+James Young I have read the primer, I just need to implement it more I guess :) +Gavin Norman The last time I played was 16 years ago and it was just my friend and I with a hand me down Metzner set, so the answer is pretty much, yes! +Greg MacKenzie I think I might draw up a small dungeon and stock it, and let it flow from there, that is an excellent idea. To everyone else: Damn, you guys are one helpful community! I appreciate all the advice! I just need to process it all and try and implement it. I feel a little more confident now.
 
One thing I might add is that if part of your flipping and looking up rules is looking up spells, make the players do it. Special abilities they have, do the same.

This will cause you and them to learn the rules better. Plus while they are flipping (and keeping them busy) you can take those moments to prep ahead as well, a few minutes to think about what happens next.
 
So some of the podcasts with info for new DMs that I've listened to are, in no particular order:  NPCCast, Roll For Initiative, Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, The Save or Die Podcast!, Good Friends of Jackson Elias (Call of Cthulhu), Miskatonic University Podcast (also CoC).  That said, there will be a lot of repetition from the pile of excellent advice you've gotten above.  The biggest one is to have fun - if you're having fun (and you're not sadistic) your players will probably also have fun.
 
If you can try to get the players to switch from passive listening to active questioning mode. Even tell them you want to do this ahead of the session. Then instead of reading walls of text highlight a few obvious features of the environment and have them question you about the details.
 
+Davin Asiala
Small dungeon, not big on plot, just players vs. monsters, hidden secrets, and traps. That's how we did it when we first started out in 78. Just keep the action going if you can. Todd's advice is good, when you describe something always have it end ambiguously, e.g. "When you hold your torch in the room you see that this is a 30 x 30 room with a stack of 10' poles in the southwest corner. Nearby in the south wall there is a small round 2 inch hole in the stonework." This sort of thing leaves all sorts of questions in the players minds, what are the poles for?  Do we insert one in the hole, and if we do what might happen? Is it a trap. Nothing might happen, unless you find all of the other holes and put the poles in, then a secret room opens. Or the thing might set off a trap, release a monster, reward the players with treasure  etc. Even when they fight Orcs or Goblins they might find a key when they are defeated and searched, what is it for? Always leave something open ended. Players will hang onto that key in the hopes it opens something long beyond when it may have been useful just because of the mystery.
 
Sounds crazy but watch the two Dungeons and Dragons episodes from the TV show Community. Those will loosen up the DM muscles and provide some inspiration on how to play loose and fast and fun.
 
(1) Make your own dungeon and make it sort of small. (2) Add traps and make them think through them as hacking away is not really challenging. (3) Add challenges to match the different classes in the party. (4) Add encounters they need to talk to (5) Put treasure (and possibly room descriptions) on index cards so you can hand them over rather than describing things. Same with riddles and whatever. Have them read rather than listen and then you have that extra bit of time to go over your stuff. (6) Start the adventure at the door to the dungeon and assume they have the right gear rather than the sometimes boring rumors and buying gear part of the game.
 
+Alex Schroeder  It looks fine Alex. That's basically how we used to start out. It always worked well. A bigger map and all the rest of what would be in a campaign were not needed at the start.
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