My D&D DMing Philosophy in a Nutshell

Interestingly, this also sums up my Strengths + Weaknesses as a DM:

1. Spend like 80% of your prep time making awesome encounters. Spend the other 20% painting broad awesome strokes for your campaign. I’ve been in campaigns where the DM had tons of wheels behind wheels going and it was awesome, but frankly I’m not any good at that stuff. And if 75% of the session is going to be a combat encounter anyway, it better be awesome!

2. Constantly challenge your players with tough fights and moral dilemmas. Be uncompromising, even cruel: I don’t know about you, but when I feel like an encounter isn’t tough, I’m not having any fun, and if I’m putting in, say, 2-3 times more work into a game than my players, i think I deserve to have some fun too.

3. Make a TON of things up on the fly. Just spew the stuff out. Don’t even wait for players to come up with a cool idea necessarily (though that doesn’t hurt); just follow your whims and see where they take you. I do this so much lately its ridiculous. On a whim, I’ll just make up an NPC or mention something crazy that the players can check out. Or if I get the slightest hint that the players want to do something, I’ll grab a few books and scratch together a fight (or even easier, a skill challenge) on the fly. I made up an encounter the other day that nearly sent the PCs 10 years into the future during an important quest and a tense time period in the campaign. It would have been awesome and only didn’t happen because of a few quick dice rolls (See rule #9).

4. FOLLOW THE RULES 100%!: When i say make things up, I don’t mean the game rules. D&D is a game with complicated and interesting combat rules and has plenty of avenues to allow you to do awesome things within the game without changing the rules. I absolutely encourage my players to let me know if I’m doing something wrong and we’ll either look it up right then or I’ll make a judgment call (usually in their favor) and then ask them to look it up while other people take their turns. I like the idea that D&D can be a storytelling game that is also a Chess Match (i.e. a game where everyone knows the rules and tries to gain strategic advantage using them).

5. All NPCs are eccentric. Sometimes an NPC is a bad ass but in a weird eccentric way. In any case, generally NPCs are weird, have weird motivations, try to get under the PCs skins, and generally are trouble. Eccentric characters are easier to roleplay. This is probably more of a weakness than a style choice, but hey, that’s how I roll.

6. World Build World Build World Build: It’s fun and rewarding, especially if you take a no holds barred approach of just filling your bucket of a world with grains of awesome.

7. House Rule: D&D needs houseruling so don’t shy away from it.

8. Kill a PC every so often: If your PC bad mouths a god, go ahead and have him shoot a bolt of electricity right into his face-

9. Rolls Rule: But at the same time, make an attack roll. Even if it has a +50 bonus, make the roll and see if it hits. Then roll out the damage. Even if it’s 30d10, roll it out and see what happens. It’s hilarious to put someone’s fate in the roll of the dice and sometimes the dice pull the game in totally awesome ways.

10. Be whimsical yet cruel: Punish players for being stupid yet give them plenty of opportunities to be stupid in different and fun ways. Reward them when their stupidity pays off. Punish them when they do the right thing and get a few crappy dice rolls. See yourself as that delightful antagonist, always there to clap at their misfortune and curse good naturedly at their success. Delight in everything they do and sincerely congratulate yourself when you engineer their destruction.

I didn’t put in anything there about having fun, because that should be obvious. The goal of everything in life is to have fun or survive long enough to have fun, right?

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