So you’ve bravely volunteered to be the Dungeon Master for your group of players. Congratulations! Let’s get you ready for running your first-ever game of Dungeons & Dragons.
SPOILER ALERT: You’re going to have fun. You’ll be exhausted at the end of the gaming session, but you’ll have a blast.
In this article, I’ll talk about some “best practices” for preparing for your game, what to do right before the game starts, how to run the game, and what to do after the game is over. The D&D Dad has you covered, first-time DMs.
And just remember, you’ll only be a brand-new DM once. After that, you’re a veteran.
As I wrote in my intro to this blog, my kids are more or less responsible for my current obsession with Dungeons & Dragons. I blame them for all the money I’ve spent on hardcover campaign books, pencils, and dice!
But seriously, I don’t blame them at all. It’s been a blast showing them how to play the game, and watching them snag a rulebook and study spells or look for special skills for their favorite classes or find some Legendary magical item to add to their Magic Wish List for their current D&D character.
I’ve never been more proud of my role as a nerdy dad than when I saw my 13-year-old on the front porch swing with his nose stuck in the Players Handbook. Or when my 10-year-old has to choose between the Monster Manual and the DMs Guide for night-time reading.
So while I’m not claiming to be any sort of expert with my less-than-one-year experience playing, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about playing D&D with kids.
Thanks to the Internet, you have access to over four decades of information related to Dungeons & Dragons. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and it’s hard to know just where to start your research. That’s where I, the D&D Dad, can help. I’ve been there myself, cluelessly clicking through site after site, trying to find the quality content that didn’t make my head want to explode.
In this week’s blog entry, I’m going to narrow things down for you by sharing the online resources that helped me learn D&D quickly.
If you have the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set, you can just jump into the first adventure by using the pre-generated characters that came with the set. They’ve got some classic character types in there, and it’ll save you at least and hour or two of prep work.
But… It’s SO MUCH FUN to create characters in D&D!
You can use wonderful sites like D&D Beyond to create characters, but for your first few sets of characters, I personally think you should use thePlayer’s Handbook (aka the PHB), a paper character sheet, a pencil, and your dice.
Why? Because you’ll see how the sausage is made for characters. In other words, you’ll see how a series of dice rolls and stats can fill out a character in a short period of time. And in the process of completing your character sheet, all of those +2s and -1s and other numbers will start to make sense. And that’s worth a little extra effort at first.
NOTE: I’m going to assume here in the D&D Dad Blog that you’re interested in being a DM as well as a player. If you think you only want to be a player, this information will be helpful to you as well, but some parts you might want to skim. Eventually, everyone gets to be the DM, though, I think!
What to read first?
If you’re itching to get started RIGHT NOW, you can jump in without spending a penny by downloading the Basic Rules from the people who make D&D, Wizards of the Coast.
Look over the rules for characters first, and then, if you want to be a DM, skim through either the DM’s rules from the Wizards of the Coast site or the adventure that comes with the Starter Set, The Lost Mines of Phandelver (it’s a good one — check out our review).
You might also want to look at some of the short, “one-shot” adventures at the DMs Guild, which are adventures you can finish in 4-6 hours, give or take. Those shorter adventures are usually easier for new DMs to wrap their brains around, and they’re great for new characters as well, because they’re self-contained and have relatively simple goals.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably interested in being a Dungeon Master for Dungeons & Dragons.
I used to feel like being a DM would be way too much work, but then I just bit the bullet and ran a few sessions. It was rocky at first, but the bonus was that my players were also new to the game, so they didn’t really know I was doing a mediocre job at first.
But each time we played, it got easier for me, and more fun for them. It’s definitely worth the stress you might feel at first.
If you have a party of all-new players, or a couple new players have joined your group, here’s a list of things I like to share with new players to quickly get them up to speed (and to keep them from feeling overwhelmed):
Welcome to the D&D Dad blog! This is the second blog in the “Historical” section (after “We’re going on an adventure!“), and in this entry, I’m going to try to take some of the complexity out of the game for new players (including new Dungeon Masters).
I’m a technical writer for a software company for my day job, and I started out my career as a junior high English and Reading teacher many moons ago. So I have a need to help people learn, and I spend most of my time at work breaking down complicated processes into simpler steps.
I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between being a tech writer and teacher with being a Dungeon Master and running a game of Dungeons & Dragons.
So I thought I’d use my love of the game and my experience with writing and teaching to help explain D&D to new players.