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10 Things I Learned as a Dungeon Master

I just finished running a Dungeons & Dragons session and these are the lessons I learned (or re-learned, or continue to improve at).
10 Things I Learned as a Dungeon Master

    1. Just enough preparation is key.

    Overprepare and waste time before, underprepare and feel like you're behind and struggling to keep up.

    2. Improvisation is non-negotiable.

    Even if you're fully prepared, your players are going to throw the proverbial wrench into your machine.

    Just tonight, someone asked me a question about a thing I hadn't planned for, and I had to whip off a name on the spot.

    It's good fun! There are no wrong answers - the only "wrong" answer is silence. Let it rip.

    3. Be like water.

    Rigidity in your scenario-building leads to despair as a DM.

    Things can't go the way you imagined them going. If you break before you bend, your players will sense your agitation and respond in kind. They will clam up, stop having fun in the world.

    I planned a whole 6 rooms that didn't get explored because of lack of curiosity or just plain bad luck on the part of the players.

    4. It's not a scripted show, it's a playground for your mind.

    You're not writing a play, you're creating interesting problems to solve and scenarios to navigate.

    5. Randomness affects the outcome more than you think.

    "The dice decide" is a saying that a lot of DnD fans refer to when things, while well-intentioned, simply don't pan out because of the result of a die roll.

    There aren't many "die roll" situations in life, but randomness occurs every moment of every day. You will never harness entropy. Create your own luck.

    6. Tokens and chips are fun. Toys make you feel like a kid again.

    I don't care who you are, you know you love pushing poker chips into a pot or moving game pieces across a board. Make it engaging with some extra flair sometimes. It brings out the "wow, cool!" response that we all remember from childhood.

    7. Playing a game with people is the best.

    Maybe this is obvious, but after a huge period of uncertainty and sadness with the pandemic, putting friends around a table to eat, laugh, roll dice, and share a great day is one of the most unbelievable treats of life.

    8. Take breaks.

    Doesn't matter if you're lifting weights, reading books, studying, or running a D&D game, your brain needs a few seconds to recalibrate and do its best job.

    Take advantage of your recovery periods.

    9. "Cool" is better than "right".

    In other words, if it makes the game better, if it makes your players happier, if it's reasonably within the bounds of the rules, it's 100% worth doing.

    Barbarian wants to wrestle a gelatinous blob into a giant pickle jar to save the party from further harm?

    Let him do it. It'll be amazing.

    10. Step back and let the game take shape.

    Just because you're in the driver's seat doesn't mean you have to be in control the whole time.

    Step back, set the table, and watch the magic happen as your players build the world for you.

    If you're managing a team, let them do their thing. They will surprise you if given the freedom to create without your constant control.
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