Having been a dungeon master for over 15 years, I will tell you that it is a skill you can pick up pretty quickly but one that is never mastered. Being a dungeon master can be a very fun and rewarding experience. Lets get into what you will need to become a dungeon master.
- Introduction: what is a dungeon master and what do they do?
- The basics: creating a campaign, world building, and NPCs
- Running the game: game play mechanics, combat, and managing the flow of the game
- Adventures: designing encounters, traps, and puzzles
- Advice for aspiring dungeon masters
- D&D Core Books
- Free World Creation Infographic
- Initiative Tracker
Introduction: what is a dungeon master and what do they do?
A dungeon master (DM) is the person who creates and controls the story and world for a tabletop role-playing game. They are responsible for creating a rich and engaging experience for the players, as well as managing the game itself. DMs can be of any experience level, from beginner to expert.
To become a DM, you’ll need some basic supplies and knowledge. Firstly, you’ll need a copy of the role-playing game rule set that your group is using. Next, you’ll need some way to track the progress of the game – either pen and paper or a computer program.
D&D Core Books
Here is a link to the D&D 5e core books. These are what you will need to play D&D 5e.
This set has:
- Dungeon Master Screen with quick tips for the rules.
- Player’s Handbook
- Dungeon Master’s Handbook
- Monster Manual
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Finally, you’ll need to know how to run a game session effectively. This includes setting up and explaining the rules to players, as well as moderating the flow of the game and keeping things on track.
The basics: creating a campaign, world building, and NPCs
Creating your first Dungeons and Dragons campaign can seem daunting, but with a few simple steps you will be on your way to creating a world of your own.
The first step is to come up with a story idea. This can be anything from saving the world from an evil wizard, to rescuing a group of fairies from a goblin king.
The second step is to create your world. This includes deciding on the races and cultures that inhabit your world, as well as the geography. If you want more on World Building see our in-depth post here.
The third step is to create your characters. This includes choosing their race, class, and abilities. Once you have all of this done, it is time to start playing!
One of the best things about Dungeons and Dragons is that it is a very versatile game and can be tailored to fit your own individual style.
Running the game: game play mechanics, combat, and managing the flow of the game
The game of Dungeons and Dragons is a complex one with many moving parts. In order to run the game effectively, you need to be familiar with the game play mechanics, combat, and how to manage the flow of the game. In this article, we will discuss each of these topics in detail.
The first thing you need to understand is the basics of game play mechanics. This includes understanding how to roll dice, how to resolve combat, and how to keep track of character stats. It can be helpful to create a cheat sheet with all of this information so you can reference it during the game.
Free World Creation Infographic
Get a step by step graphic to explain how to create a custom world in your tabletop role playing game. These steps work for Dungeons and Dragons / Pathfinder and any RPG.
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Combat is another important aspect of Dungeons and Dragons. If you are running a combat-heavy game, it’s important to understand how to resolve fights quickly and efficiently. You’ll also need to know about different types of damage and how they work.
There are a few different ways to keep track of character stats. One way is to use pencil and paper. Make a table with three columns: Name, Level, and Stats.
Name – write the name of each character.
Level – write the level of each character.
Stats – write down the stats for each character.
Another way to keep track of character stats is to use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Make a table with three columns: Name, Level, and Stats. See above for how to fill that out.
A third way to keep track of character stats is to use an online tool like D&D Character Builder.
A fourth way is to use a printable tracker that can also be used to track initiatives.
Track the following:
- Player’s name
- Max Hit Points
- Spell Casting DC
- Darkvision (if applicable)
- Passive Perception
- Saving Throws
Adventures: designing encounters, traps, and puzzles
Dungeon masters need to be creative when designing encounters, traps, and puzzles. One way to do this is to come up with ideas based on what the party knows or doesn’t know. If the party is knowledgeable about a creature or type of trap, use that information to create a more challenging encounter. For example, if the party knows that a particular creature is immune to fire, use that knowledge to create a trap involving fire.
Similarly, if the party doesn’t know about a creature or type of trap, use that to your advantage. For example, place a troll in an ambush in a dark hallway. The party won’t know what they’re up against until it’s too late.
Dungeon masters can also create puzzles based on knowledge the party has.
Dungeon masters can also create puzzles based on knowledge the party has. For example, the dungeon master might place a secret door that can only be opened if the party knows the specific command word. The dungeon master can also place clues throughout the dungeon that lead to the answer to a puzzle. If the party gets stuck, the dungeon master can provide them with a hint to help them progress.
Advice for aspiring dungeon masters
Dungeon masters come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own unique talents, skills, and experiences. But there are a few pieces of advice that hold true for all aspiring dungeon masters: be creative, be prepared, and have fun.
First and foremost, be creative. The best dungeon masters are the ones who can think on their feet and come up with interesting scenarios on the fly. If you’re not sure what to do next, don’t be afraid to ask your players for ideas.
Second, be prepared. This doesn’t just mean having your game materials ready to go; it also means being familiar with the rules and being willing to improvise when necessary.
Finally, have fun. It’s important to remember that dungeon mastering is supposed to be fun for everyone involved.
In conclusion, anyone can become a dungeon master with the right tools and some practice. Dungeon mastering is a fun and rewarding way to spend your time, and it can be a great way to get introduced to role playing games. If you’re interested in giving it a try, I encourage you to do some research online and find a group of players who are willing to help you learn the ropes. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment!
If you want more information about how to be a dungeon master see our articles for dungeon master 101.
About the Author:
Dwight Scull has been playing tabletop role playing games (starting with Dungeons and Dragons 3.5) back in 2001. He started being a dungeon master around 2005.
He loves to play many different types of TTRPG’s, including GURPS, Shadowrun, Vampire: The Masquerade, Mage: The Ascension (and other White Wolf Games), Nights Black Agents, and others.
Fan of mysteries, light horror, co-op board games, true crime, sci-fi and fantasy.