Plot Twist, because I’m an asshole: the massive treasure chest at the end of a murderously difficult and expansive dungeon is entirely empty. Inside the box there is some flowery prose that hints at friendship or something being the “true treasure.”
Subsequent Plot Twist, because I’m an even bigger asshole: the chest itself is actually a long-lost non-magical artifact with massive historic value, and there are plenty of museums, nobles, historical societies, etc. that would pay an insane amount of money for it.
Draco Malfoy had only ever been scared twice in his life. Once when The Dark Lord returned and once when he told Harry Potter he was in love with him.
He can recall the moment he realised that he was in love with The Boy Who Lived. It was an early Tuesday morning and Draco had awoken to an empty bed, yet he thought nothing of it. This usually happened so he presumed Harry had gone off to work. He was wrong, Draco came down to his kitchen to find Harry whistling along to the tune of the radio whilst fussing about over the stove. Draco can distinctly remember the smirk Harry threw over his shoulder followed by “Your coffee is on the table babe.” And it was as if in that instance everything had been flipped upside down because for the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy was in love.
This in itself didn’t scare him but he knew that the day he told Harry would be the day he feared. That day came around sooner than anticipated. Of course he hadn’t planned to have told Harry, the words had slipped passed Draco’s lips before he even knew they were out. It was the sheer surprise of it all that scared him to his core. However when Harry pulled him into a hug, kissed his temple and replied with “I love you too Draco, more than you could ever imagine,” Draco wondered why he had ever feared it at all.
Being a DM is intimidating, so well done for at the very least trying the mantel on to see if it fits. If you are anything like the rest of us, it won’t for the first several campaigns.
Being a new DM is mostly about learning how to improve. Everything you plan will be sent to hell by your players at some point or another. Take an improv class if you can, or spend your time in the shower pretending to be someone else instead of singing. I won’t judge.
The second tip I have is learning to listen to your characters when they aren’t role playing as much as they are. Ask them what they like and don’t like. Communicate with them. The better the communication, the more you can learn to adapt to their playing style and make the game more fun for everyone.
Thirdly, know the game. The better you know the mechanics and rules, the quicker and easier everything flows. In addition, it allows you to quickly help players that are new to the game and how it works, keeping the learning curve quick and the rule checks fewer.
Lastly, accept that you are going to make some really stupid mistakes. Plot holes, party kills, and more, it’s all going to happen. Nobody is perfect. Apologize to your players when it happens. They should understand.
I hate to compare DnD to sex again, but good DnD is like sex: confidence helps, experience helps more, and constant apologies piss off your partner. If you maintain control of the table you will be better at keeping everyone involved and happy, and you will KEEP THE GAME MOVING. Side conversation is natural and jokes are great and technology can even add a lot to a campaign but left unchecked and not properly stimulated by the game, players can drift. The DM has to keep bringing it back to the game, to shut everyone up if necessary or to speed things up if things are slowing down. Cell phone and laptop use is generally harmless but distractions slow down the game and bum everyone out. The key is MODERATION, a truth about as interesting as the very concept of MODERATION.
While distractions can be problematic – and while breaking immersion and momentum is inevitable – the natural overcorrection can be equally dangerous. Constantly demanding attention and setting rules to limit technology is a quick way to look like a huge asshole, and trying not to look like a huge asshole is a big part of being a DM (and a human). There are respectful and disrespectful ways to bring up issues, to try and get back on topic, to shut down a rules lawyer, etc., and the words the DM chooses to handle it are very important. If you’re at odds with your player group they will have less of a reason to listen to you and more reason to stop paying attention and text a friend, or to try and get some laughs from the table. Also they’re probably your friends … so own the table, but don’t be a dick about it.