How to be a great RPG Game Master!

It seems, at least in my eyes, that there’s been a resurgence of tabletop RPGs in the last few years. More and more people in my office are talking about and running Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. I regularly hear my social circles talk about running a Pathfinder session one evening a week. I myself am still very invested in my Star Wars RPG nights! But running these sessions as a good RPG Game Master can make or break the fun and the willingness of your players to participate.

Whether you’re a dungeon master or a player, there’s an etiquette and “way of things” that must be maintained for a session to run with maximum enjoyment. After all, we’re all here to have fun. So, let’s have a gander at some of our tips of successfully running an RPG session as Game Master!

The core of being a dungeon master

You are the NPCs, the events, the quests and the world itself! As a dungeon master you are likely responsible for maticulously crafting session encounters and campaign segments that will immerse your players. You are everything within the session bar the players themselves. This can seem a little daunting at first but just remember that you’re here to enjoy yourself along with the players.

So, here’s how to be as best a DM as you can…

Do ample preparation

Arguably one of the most important rules. Taking time and planning out your game world and sessions to an extent should be a must as a Game Master. Players often have the best/worst ways of tripping you up and if this catches you completely unaware with no way to see the other side of it, it’ll show. Some things you cannot prepare for but there’s plenty that you can!

Sometimes having a lot of reading material can help when preparation and session-building.. However, it is by no means essential.
Do be accommodating

RPGs can be complex beasts at the best of time. Lots of stats to remember, lots of dice rolling, lots of rules to look up. If you’re running the session and are comfortable with the game system then be sure to be patient for any players who may be new. After all, they may look to you for guidance not just as their character but as their player too.

Do weave the world with your words

Sometimes you might or might not have graph paper or dungeon scenery to hand. In these cases it’ll be time to use the “theatre of the mind”. When doing this, try to go into as much detail as possible. It can turn a bar fight in a tavern into an overwhelming brawl within a dingy, dark, decrepit inn littered with barrels and bar stools. Not only will it give your players more to work with but it’ll give you more to work with too!

Do go the extra mile

Further to help the immersion and generally to provide a memorable experience, try to go that little further. Consider making props like scrolls using paper, coffee and an oven. Consider putting on some background music or ambience to help your players sink into their roles. Things like this can keep the sessions in the minds and hearts of your players, making them more excited for the next! There’s something exceptionally heart-warming about your players discussing/getting excited over instances in previous sessions where you did a little more.

A lot of sessions can enjoy the use of bluetooth speakers or just your phone for ambience. Be it a bustling town or a devastating battlefield.
Do reward creativity

So, one player is a Dwarf barbarian and they are sinking to the bottom of a river? You could just ask them to do a survival roll or something. Or, if the player proposes using his two handaxes to claw into the earth and clamber his way out of the river like some underwater rock-climber…why not?! Even if the players try using their most powerful stats in the most unlikely situation, if it sounds awesome, then consider allowing them! Maybe even throw in some inspiration points or extra EXP to encourage it.

These are a few things that might make the experience all the more wonderful for your players and their characters. The full list would be intolerably longer than this, but these are some of the core basics. Keep tuned for our next article which deals in how NOT to be a great Game Master. Remember, knowing is half the battle!

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  1. Excellent article and kudos for mentioning background music! Music in my opinion is underrated tool and element for game sessions and I am a bit surprised how little people actually use it. I have actually ended up composing original fantasy music under Celestial Aeon Project for my campaigns and game sessions. One of the latest virtual releases is The Journey Begins: – it might offer enjoyable moments to fellow dungeon masters / gamers as well!

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