By - RedRaee77
When I started, I was also concerned with that. My first piece of advice would be not to over-step the players. Explanations and describing the environment and challenges the players come to will always be important, but if you can, you should try to place those in times when the party isn't talking among eachother in-game, and when the pace has come to a point where it's not much of a stretch to pull the party out of their game for your explanations. I also suggest you look at some pre-written modules. Not for use, necessarily, but to see how things are laid out. About how long are explanations? How detailed are they? How is need-to-know information put into the described works so the party knows everything they need for solving their puzzles? All that aside, the big thing is to have fun. It's not a bad idea to just ask your players, and if they had fun, you're doing your job as a dungeon master well. If you've further questions, and you'd like to ask a fellow blabbermouth DM, you may ask me! I'm only a dm away
Reposting some advice I gave elsewhere:
* You are also a player and your fun matters.
* Talk about style, genre, safety tools and player expectations before the game even starts. It can also be helpful to let your players coordinate to one another and your genre. So you don't get 5 gunslinging cowboys in your pirate game. Check out the Session 0 info in the Tasha's Cauldron book.
* Be confident. No one but you knows when you're making stuff up.
* Balance prep and improv to your comfort level. You're going to need both but you'll probably lean towards one or the other and you need to be able play up your strengths and cover your weaknesses.
* Let the players drive the story. You're going to make cool stuff and sometimes the players will break it and sometimes that turns out even better.
* For a one shot just know that most stuff is going to take longer than you think. Design a short version that just hits the big moments and maybe have a few interesting modular bits (extra fight, puzzle, social interaction etc.) you can pop in if you start running fast.
>So you don't get 5 gunslinging cowboys in your pirate game.
A - That sounds way more fun than 5 more pirates in a pirate game.
B - That sounds like Spelljammer.
I also have massive anxiety and worry about my players getting bored, etc
I find something that helps me with worrying about that is the descriptions
I make sure I describe things to give atmosphere
Instead of saying ‘you’re walking through a dense forest’ say ‘you walk along the path through the forest with the trees surrounding you, it’s colder here than outside the woods, you can see some light trickling through the canopy and you can hear the calls of birds and the rustling of leaves.’
Or if you want to make it ominous ‘you notice as you walk along this path through the forest that it’s getting darker, the trickle of light from the canopy is gone and you can no longer hear animals. Everything is almost silent. It’s even colder in this part of the forest.’
Also. I find a lot of my players don’t do what I expect them to which makes it difficult sometimes so I’d suggest practicing improvising.
Just the other day I had to make up the name of an entire town and a bunch of people on the fly
As long as you don’t sound unsure about the things you improv the likelihood is your players won’t even notice.
You’re more than welcome to ask me any questions too (no matter how silly you THINK they sound, I’m sure we’ve all been confused about things before) I’ve been a DM for about 2-3 years now
Starting with a one shot like you are doing is a great way to dip your toe in and get you on a path to DMing. If you've already made a map, even if you think it's bad, you can use that for your players. You could make a copy for them, minus loot and monster info, and tell them it's a crude map and may or may not be accurate. As the plot hook perhaps someone could give it to them as they are seeking something from the loot table like an old family heirloom, that would have 0 value to players, or some such thing.
If you've already mapped your one shot out though, don't deviate from what you are comfortable with. This can help with your confidence levels and don't worry about boring your players. Sounds like you have a solid one shot planned out already. If it's all homebrew that gives even better chances to change stuff on the fly if it isn't working. Get feedback from your players after the session, too. Ask them what worked and what didn't. Constructive criticism can really help show you what your strengths are, boosting confidence again, and where you can maybe work on improving. You can also do this during a session 0, if you are having one, and ask them what they are looking for in a longer campaign when that time comes. I have found that DMing with friends can really help folks with social awkwardness, too. Good luck at your table!
So, the golden rule about conversations is basically Listen and Ask Questions.
Everybody thinks their story is interesting. The players may think your story is interesting, or they may not. So, if you focus on your story... you're gambling. If you focus on the story of the PCs, then you're going to keep them engaged.
If you see a player who is on their phone or disengaged... Engaged with the player: "What does your player do? You know, this NPC just insulted his mom" So, here you are engaging with the player, and then telling them what the current "Game State" is.
Have the player's ideas generally work. If a player has a good idea, it should usually provide a benefit to the party. This encourages the PCs to be engaged with the game and think of more good ideas! The more ideas the PCs have, the less work you have to do.
Know your content, at least in a broad sense, and have some loose contingencies. Keep the game moving and don't spend too much time getting bogged down in the details of what you prepared, or letting the players get stuck in one spot, overthinking that rotten log on the roadside. If you forget something or if it doesn't seem to fit in the moment, skip it. Keep the flow going. Ask players questions when they give broad statements to define a level specificity. "Do you touch the thing or inspect it visually?" If the monster has 2 hp left, and it would cooler if that last person's attack would've killed it? Just let them kill it. Unless it's dramatic that it survives one more turn to set off a trap or alert the kobolds in room F.
Just try not to take it too seriously
It's okay to flub your lines or for the group to get side tracked but as long as everyone is having a good time it's a success
Also if you're of legal age a shot of your preferred alcohol will loosen you up and calm your nerves
This is a **gross** oversimplification but it is advice I give all newbie DMs and it always seems to work. excluding ridiculous things like trying to take down a god just let the players always be right when your are just starting off.
Example: if you run a murder mystery and there are 4 suspects to the murder do NOT predetermine who the murderer is, let the players guess and just go along with it without telling them. then put clues in their way to show them they're on the right track.
I hope this helps, happy adventuring!
Nervous? That's good because it means you want your players to have a good time. You have the plot of your story, so that's set. Doesn't matter how good or bad the maps are. All they need to show is what is where in relation to other things. They're not gonna be used for the invasion of Normandie. I find it helps me get into the NPCs' personas and leave my own behind to speak in first person. I speak with an accent or dialect always, because I'm good at it, but not everyone is. But you don't have to be good at it to do it. Just do it. It's fun. I even do it when I'm speaking as the GM.
You will have the most fun when your players do wild and crazy shit you never would have thought of in a million years, So turn them loose in your story and see what they do If they ask "Can I do this?" and it's fun and in keeping with your game, say "Yeah, sounds like fun, let's do it."
A bit of practical advice:
* Only use advice that works for you. There's lots of advice floating around, and you might resonate with some more than others. Trying to listen to it all, even just all of the stuff you like, will make you go crazy. Nothing will truly prepare you, it's kind of like how you can't learn to swim without getting in the water. If something doesn't sound good, or makes you feel an unhealthy pressure to do things a certain way, ignore it.
* Talk slower than you think. I don't mean like "slower than you think you should" (which also might be useful) but "slower than your brain is running." When your mouth catches up to your brain, that's where people get flustered and either have unnatural pauses, or flail words around to fill the silence. Measured speaking pace will help keep that from happening, it gives you time to figure out your next phrase before you get there. It also helps keep your words intelligible, and the right pacing will even get listeners engaged in what's happening.
As far as actually running the game:
* Be a fan of the characters. Of course you want to portray honest challenges to them and not let them steamroll over everything, you want them to earn their victory. But the victory is important too (in the broad sense). If they're interested in something, highlight it and take the game in that direction. If they're struggling, give them options forward. For that matter, be a fan of the players, and periodically check in to make sure everyone's having a good time.
* Convince the players to be fans of each other's characters, and the game, too. Lots of games implode when PCs can't get along, which happens surprisingly often even among people who are good friends in real life. Plenty more games lose steam when players make characters that aren't easily motivated to adventure. Support the players in working together to build a **team,** ideally one that will want to bite on the plot hooks you give them.
* You don't need to know all the answers all the time. You just want to sound like you do. Which is great, because coincidentally, you get to decide what the answers are. The only things in the game's setting and story that actually exist are the things you tell the players. Doesn't matter what your notes say, doesn't matter what's in your brain, none of that is real until you speak it into being. So if the game is going in a direction you're not prepared for, just follow along and go with your gut (being a fan of the players and PCs, of course). As long as you don't contradict what you've actually told the players, you're fine, and you can throw out or rework any prep you need to. This does mean that you ideally do want to keep notes on what you've spoken into existence, especially if it isn't prepped in advance. That helps keep you from contradicting something you previously said when you were improvising, and helps you structure what you might want to prepare in between sessions.
I get that people are going to not going to like what I am going to say. But the most important thing about running a game is this; none of this matters. Whether it goes great or it fails utterly, it doesn't matter. It just you and some people playing a meaningless game for fun.
As for the other stuff, you seem to have done your basic prep. My only suggestion is that you do more work on your NPCs. What they have isn't that important, you can make that up on the fly. Who they are, what motivates them, what they might be doing before or after they interact with the PCs, what small personality quirks they have, etc. This is what you should be prepping. Also, while on the topic of NPCs, make up a few extra NPCs that you can pull out of nowhere when you need to.
Finally, don't worry about the story that much. A one-shot is fairly straightforward unless it's fundamentally made wrong. A DM isn't a storyteller, a DM is a story facilitator. The players should be making the story move along, you are just there to make sure things run based on a certain logic.
We learn by doing.
First-time DM's aren't expected to be perfect the first time. You'll make mistakes. Maybe even a lot of them. But you'll learn what the mistakes you most need to avoid actually are. Just do your best not to repeat them. That's all any of us can ever do.
LET them have fun. Remember that you need to have some fun too. You'll get better. Everyone always does, so don't worry yourself about it unnecessarily. :) Since you're planning on rotating DM's the others will also learn about the difficulties of what it means to be the DM, so even if they're critical about your efforts, just take it in stride and wait for the karma wheel to come back around...
You might find some good advice at r/DMAcadamy where there are many posts about upping one's DM game.