Long time dm here: 12+ years of experience. Here's some tips:
- Relax. You got this.
- It isn't all on you. DnD is cooperative before anything else. I like to think of my role as being like a video game console: I'm there to provide a physics engine and lay down a scenario, but that doesn't work unless my players help out by buying into the scenario and accepting the way I run those physics. If anyone at the table is throwing off the vibe, your job is to remind them that they need to cooperate or it won't be fun.
- On that note, communicate with your players. Communicate frequently and make sure you talk over any problems anyone has, and also call out when people are being awesome.
- Your favorite home brewed item, mechanic, or monster is going to break the game. No, not that one that you've suspected of wrongdoing for months. That one is going to be comically underpowered. I'm talking about the clever mythology reference that neatly explains why your favorite region is as cool as it is. Yeah, that. It'll let a level 3 barbarian become immortal or something. When this happens, calmly inform your players that this was a mistake and the game will be much better if Gregnagax The Oaken-Thewed can't suplex the tarrasque.
- Seriously, you will need the phrase "that effect is unbalanced, so we won't be using it."
- You will need the table of damage by severity and level. It's on page 249 of the DMG. It is absurdly useful. Anytime you need to improvise damage, this chart is useful.
- Print out your monster and npc Stat blocks. Flipping through the books in combat sucks.
- Your campaign will go off the rails. Your plans will be destroyed so badly you don't even recognize them. This is normal. After the damage is done, consider how the people in your world will react to what just happened. Congratulations, that is the plot of your next session.
- Remember to keep play fresh. Spice up combat heavy areas with cool lore moments, throw social encounters into clue gathering, make the mayor a very silly person, let the stablehand whistle all the damn time. This is especially helpful if you're including mysteries or politics, since vibrant worlds can make allegiances and deceptions less obvious.
- You are not Matt Mercer. Matt Mercer has a whole production team behind him, years of experience, and a party of professional actors. I love the DnD Renaissance, but it can make a dm feel really inadequate. This is a game of basements, rickety chairs, old dining room tables, and improvised miniatures. I promise that you will feel silly for your first couple of sessions. That's okay. You'll hit your groove, and it'll be fun tabletop evenings, not professional quality polished narrative and character arcs. Those silly low-budget moments are the best sign that you're doing it right.
- Most campaigns are confined to one or two tiers of play. Levels 3-to-10 is common. Campaigns to level 20 take years, and I've never been in one or run one that got all the way there. You'll spend a lot of time doing shorter campaigns, one shots and the like. If you manage to play to level 20, great, but be ready to accept that you might not. Campaigns fall apart because people have busy lives, and that's okay.
- And finally: relax. You got this.
i shaking this is extremely helpful thank you?? /gen
i never realized it before but the game console analogy is very helpful and also very true!! all the (good) dms i’ve had have always been very good at painting pictures of what’s going on/explaining how the world works and if anything, i want my world to be really colorful! and i want my players to enjoy playing in it
thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!!! very much appreciated by this babey dm <:)