Dungeon Master’s Table: 5 Pro-tips to Running a Smooth Campaign.

castle ravenloft - last battle
by Bartolomej Jahoda

One of my all time favorite table top games is Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  While games like Monopoly, Sorry, and Parcheesi can be fun and great for socializing with friends, I find the appeal of roleplay so much more attractive.

In the realm of D&D you get the opportunity to create a story, and if I haven’t made it obvious by the posts I’ve made these past few months, I think story is incredibly important to our every day lives.  To that end, D&D provides the chance to not only tell a piece of your own story, but to work with others to tell an even more expansive story.

As such, the Dungeon Master (DM) is the driving force behind this story.  He or she will be the ones who decides what sort of monsters live in the world they are creating, what nations are at peace or war, what quests will be available to the party, etc, and all of this takes a large amount of time and effort to put it all together.  So here are a few of my “Pro-tips” that I’ve learned over the years (usually the hard way) on how to run a smooth campaign.

1. Set some ground rules before the campaign starts.
Hopefully everyone at the table is there to have some fun.  Setting up a few ground rules to express expectations of DM and players is handy in keeping it fun.  Whether it has to do with rules discussion, who brings what at each meet, or being on time, let your players know what will help you keep the game running smooth.

2. Get a whiteboard
If you are like me, then you don’t always have money to invest in the fancy grid maps that are helpful in a campaign.  As a trade, I have a whiteboard, a few different colored dry-erase markers, and a good eraser.  This allows me to draw each portion of the map the party is in as they reach it.

3. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money on miniatures.
Two words: Toy Soldiers.  These make great “mook” representations for your standard monsters, which allows you to spend money on the more specific monsters you may want your party to face (like a dragon for instance).  Additionally, toy soldiers tend to have two color variations which is helpful if you want to represent opposing factions or npcs as well.

4. Have a few back up plans.
There is nothing quite as frustrating to a DM than to set up a long encounter only to have your party come up with a way to end the conflict in one round or avoid it all together.  Always keep a few monsters, traps, etc, in “back pocket” so to speak so you aren’t completely lost on what to do.

5. Take Turns
In every party I’ve managed I have had some players who want to do a million different things and don’t give the other players a chance to achieve something of their own.  Be sure as a DM that you allow those players to have a turn.  Personally I will ask each player if there is something they want to do and may even interrupt tasks that are taking a while to give each player an opportunity to chime in.

There are probably a hundred other tips that I could share with you, but these are easily my top five that I follow regularly to keep a campaign running smooth and letting the players have fun.

What about you?  What have you found to be helpful in your experiences?  If you have never been a DM what have you enjoyed that another DM did?

Until next week.

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