Dungeon Master Skills – Top 3 Talents You Will Need Before You Host Your First DM Session

The following is a list of the things and dungeon master skills you need before you DM your first session:

[There is nothing listed. You don’t need to have anything to be a dungeon master.]

Let me clarify. You don’t need to have anything physical (or electronic) to be a dungeon master. True, there are some very helpful things to have. But they are not essential. All you need is a desire to do it.

In this age of Twitch and YouTube, you can spend a lot of time watching people tell you all the stuff they use when they DM. There is a lot of information out there for first-time DMs – a lot of very good information.* But I strongly suggest you sample it a little bit at a time. If you try to cram it in your brain all at once, it will freak you out, and you will never schedule your first session.

Which is something you should do right now. Seriously. Schedule a game.

Go For It - Skills You Need To Be A Dungeon Master
Take out your calendar and write down “run a game of D&D” for sometime next week. Friday looks good.

Over Come Your Fear of DMing – Just Do It!

Does being a dungeon master sound fun? Is it something you hope to do someday – when you are ready and know enough about the game, etc?

Stop right there. If you know how to play D&D, even at only a beginning level, then you can DM a game. You don’t need anything aside from a desire to give it a try.

Well, you will need a calendar, so you can schedule your first session. You will also need a few players (four would be nice). Try to get people that you know and like. Then grab a “one-shot” module, pull a small quest from a full-length module, or make something up. You need a location, some bad guys, and something for your players to “go after.” Give them a little something to do, some loot to go after, or both. Maybe some puppies are missing …

No Worries About Being A DM

Better than nothing
Your first session as a DM will not be perfect. It might even be a little messy. That’s ok. A messy game of D&D is better than no D&D. Your players are not expecting perfection. They just want to play. Their kick-ass deep gnome wizard (Mortimer J. Fyreballe) has been built for months. He is bored and sad. Make him happy and schedule a game!

The sad truth is there are far too many players out there wanting to play than there are DMs. It’s a serious problem in the D&D world. We need you. We need you to be brave and just go fo

Dungeon Master Skills To Help Be A DM

What you might want
You are still wanting me to give you a list, don’t you?

Ok. The following is a list of things that would be helpful to have before you DM your first session.

  1. The Players’ Handbook. I would recommend a hard copy.
  2. Discord and a VTT– for those who will be running the game online. Discord will help you find players and organize your games. You can use a voice channel for actual gameplay. You’ll also want to use a “virtual tabletop” like Roll20.
  3. A DM screen and dice – for those who will be running in person.
  4. Four cooperative players
  5. A published, one-shot module
  6. This episode of the Disastrous DMs podcast, where discusses this exact topic in a much more thorough way. (Seriously, listen to it, it will help a lot.)
  7. The Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. (These are totally optional when first starting, but once you get going, they are super helpful.)

Don’t Do This One Thing

One “don’t”
There is actually one of the Dungeon Master skills things you should not have when you run your first game – do not have Critical Role expectations. Critical Role is actually partly to blame for the current shortage of DMs. Many people want to give D&D a try because they see the show and want something that fun. Who will want to give DMing a try when they see Matt Mercer and think they have to be like that? That is not what you are shooting for. No one is expecting anything even remotely close to that. Relax and just be yourself.


More Reading on Dungeon Master Skills

* When it comes to online video help for first-time DMs, I highly recommend Matt Colville’s “Running the Game” series. It has helped me a great deal. I also recommend listening to all of the Disastrous DMs episodes.

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