So you want to be a DM: 5 tips to make your first game great

Running your first tabletop game no matter what system it is, can be a very stressful        exciting prospect. You are taking the entertainment of 2-8 individuals into your hands for an entire evening. Crafting an interesting story and keeping all of your players off of their phones engaged for hours can be a daunting task.




After spending years at the whims of capricious DMs who have gleefully cackled at your seemingly higher than random number of critical failures, you have decided to take a turn at the reins. Remembering these 5 things will make your first adventure one to be at least slightly more than adequate.

1. You are human. You will mess up.

Every new DM will read the rules for something and still have no idea what’s going on. You’ll forget to read the dialogue on a module, which would have saved 3 hours with the mini’s on a map.
You will forget to calculate the defense bonus for one or more of the PC’s
You will mess up…….. and that’s ok!

Remember that you are human, you will mess things up. It will be okay. Even if you completely mess it up, it can will still be fun.

2. Do your homework.

Some of the best games I have ever been a part of have been completely made up as the DM went along. The great games that players talk about for years almost always come with a good amount of prep time though. Reading the module, drawing out the map, and re-reading the module can take hours.  That homework pays off in spades when players do something you don’t expect. Speaking of which…..

3. No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy (or your players)

No matter how many hours you spend drawing up maps, painting mini’s, updating character sheets, and pouring over your modules your players WILL surprise you.
An encounter with a broken down wagon which should have slowed your party down for at least a few hours will be solved by a cantrip. Somebody will roll a critical success on their perception check and it will spot the bad guy 59 pages early in the module. Don’t worry about it. Let the players revel in their victory and cleverness. Just pick it up where you can.

burning tavern

4.  Give each of your players a chance to shine.

Chances are that your players have already divvied up the traditional party rolls. (You know tank, heals, DPS) try to include at least one opportunity for each party member to use a skill that only they have to progress the story. Your players are (usually) heroes. Let them be the heroes. Give your rogue the chance to disarm a trap or two. Give your wizard the opportunity use their illusion spells to trick the bad guys.


5. Leave them wanting more

It’s been a few hours, everyone has made the obligatory Mountain Dew and Cheetos jokes, and the dice have gone flying all over the table. Now it is time to draw them back for the next session. Think about what makes you want to come back and watch the next episode, read the next book, play the next level. Now use it.  Leave your players in danger, leave them with a boatload of currency to spend (so they can shop between games), or even reveal a critical piece of information.



These are just a few suggestions on making your first session as a DM one to be remembered.

What was it like the first time you ran a game?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below or e-mail them to

Until we meet again my friends, Eat, Drink, and be Geeky