Advice for new DMs?

Hey, finally decided to try my hand at DMing a TTRPG for my brother in law and nibbling’s (all first time players), specifically the Lord of the Rings Adventure in Middle Earth.

My total experience with TTRPG’s so far is playing in a single oneshot, so any advice for someone just starting out would be greatly appreciated!

Specifically, what should I bring to our first session? what battle mat/map do you recommend? I am going to try and create some paper mini’s I think, any thoughts recommendations on that? Any general tips for DMing?

Thanks in advance for any replies!

Your players will never respond how you think they will :joy: be prepared to have a few plan Bs and C’s in your creative pocket. They don’t have to be fleshed out, just a “if they decide to open door 3 instead of door 2 with the big OPEN ME sign” you’ll have something to go on. How many players will you be DMing?

1 Like

Thanks… Three definitely, possibly up to four more (still waiting to hear back from them)… was hoping to have 4-6 so we will see :slight_smile:

I’ve only DMed once but my husband has DMed and he usually complains to me about what the players did or didn’t do. Okay, not always complain. :laughing: With 4-6 players your battles can get drawn out. Be prepared to change some things in the middle of battle (players don’t even need to know) to help shorten it if need be or if they are plowing through the enemies too fast. One-shot or long campaign?

1 Like

Doing a one shot with pre generated character sheets first as an intro/learning session, if it goes well and everyone wants to continue I plan to start a full campaign after that…

so for group size would you recommend keeping it 3-4? if so I may just not follow up with the other 3 and leave it up to them to reach out if they are interested (which would make future planning sessions easier as the three definites and one possible are all one family)

In the old days, when I DMed, I would have at least one night of ‘character development’. What I mean is, instead of just tossing people into standard storyline, I’d put them all in situations where they could find out interesting things about their characters. Place them in situations where they literally have to choose to be heroic or stand by and watch…Situations where they could help someone but possibly be scarred for life, put them in situations where solving a riddle or a puzzle will test their mettle.

Again, before they ever start a real adventure.

We did this with one character, and he was had a serious attitude. He mouthed off at the wrong person, and that person fought him and ended up taking his eyes. That character was blind from then on, though they occasionally got magical help to see in a limited fashion. May sound harsh, but that player LOVED that character from then on because they became that much more of a challenge to portray and make decisions for.

(Also, it humbled the character considerably.)


I like that idea… might have to have one night in between the one shot and the start of the campaign to help my players with their character creation/development

We often ‘filled out’ interesting details during those sessions. Is a character afraid of the dark? Maybe a character has one odious personal habit that isn’t obvious until you get to know them? Maybe they are virtuous and righteous in every way, but they’re secretly a kleptomaniac, but only from people of a specific hair color? heh

You, and your players can surprise yourself by the funky stuff these sessions might introduce to the gameplay.

1 Like

Often Dodge or our other DM friend will have one night where it is character creation/ask the DM questions about the world, etc. The one-shots don’t take as much time but it’s still a fun thing.

With 4+ people, don’t be surprised if a one-shot takes more than one session. One of our one shots lasted three sessions. I say if you are feeling confident go ahead with as many players as are willing. It may not turn out like you thought but it should be fun. :grin:

I don’t usually participate in D&D type activities but this is such a cool thread. I enjoyed reading it. :slight_smile:

So one question that I am still pondering, is how do DM’s generally track monster stats (like hitpoints/statuses)? do you have a separate paper note/index card for each one to track them on? do you use an app, either on a phone or laptop? track everything on a sheet of paper? Mind palace? I am leaning towards solutions that would let me avoid using a laptop if possible, but could probably manage to find a laptop to use if that ends up being the best/easiest way to keep track of everything

Honestly, I’m old school, a scratch sheet of paper/pad.

1 Like

Anything in particular you do to keep track of different monsters? say I have six goblins, do you just remember that Goblin1 is the one on the left, Goblin2 is next to him and just took a hit and lost 3 hp, Goblins3&4 are at the back throwing spears, Goblin5 is the one on the right and Larry is the one charging straight up the middle?

I am definitely leaning towards just using a paper sheet, but not quite sure what sort of notes I should be writing down on it… I am sure it is something that I will figure out as I go, but I like to know exactly what I need to do before I do it lol

Honestly, anything even remotely ‘graphical’ works. Make six dots on your sheet, put their full HP and armor above each dot. Something like that is probably the simplest way I’ve found.

Then again…Though it may sound a little bit ‘cheaty’ of me as DM, I have ‘suddenly’ switched enemies out if one of my characters is having a really easy time, and we’re lacking appropriate drama, if you see what I’m saying. It’s not always about sheer numbers for me, sometimes you need to give a particular player a heavier role to play, or give them some impetus to overcome a limit, or you know, have another character come to their rescue when all hope seems lost.

But yeah, little visual representations of the enemies is generally the easiest way. And I called my little pad a ‘scratch sheet of paper’ since I’ll be changing the numbers so much, and shifting stuff around and all of that.

A lot of DMs prefer figurines and that sort of thing for just this sort of reason, never mind the ‘immersion’. But, I’ve never done the figurine thing.

All of this DMing talk has me considering getting in on something here soon on CC perhaps. Been a pretty long while since I played.

1 Like