March 1, 2024

What makes a good DM (PCP)

One of the most obvious things that makes a good DM is when they’re a brilliant storyteller. When a DM is a talented storyteller, they keep the party engaged and keep their attention. It’s guaranteed that a DM who isn’t talented at storytelling is going to have a party full of people daydreaming and sorting their dice.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is an open-ended, somewhat structured, role-playing game. The game is played around a table with one person playing the role of the Dungeon Master (DM) and the other players controlling one character. Each character is a member of the party consisting of the other players in a fictional world. Characters consist of one race (Dragonborn, Elf, Human, Halfling, ect.) and one class (Fighter, Monk, Cleric, Bard, ect.).

The DM runs the story for the rest of the players. The DM knows all of the story, while the players typically know nothing but the name of the campaign. It is also the DM’s job to make sure that the players make their way through the entire story. The DM has to be creative and adapt to anything the players do that isn’t listed in the storyline. 

To tell how well something is done by the player, like whether or not a character accurately hits an enemy, is based on a roll of a die with an addition of the character’s stats. A 20 sided die is typically rolled for this, but players have multiple other dice (D4, D6, D8, D10 and D12) that are used often for damage and other things. 

   Many things go into a successful D&D game. As an avid D&D player, you know right off the rip if you’re going to like the campaign or one shot (a single session game) based on your DM. Obviously, the people you’re playing with will play a part in it, but very seldom is it the story that ruins the game.

   The biggest thing someone needs to be a good DM is creativity. Nothing is worse than playing a game of D&D when the DM is putting the kibosh on literally everything. The point of the game is to be creative, so players see when they don’t have a sense of creativity.  This also restrains the player’s own creativity. If they’re not creative, oftentimes they’ll get annoyed with players for doing something that strays from the main quest which honestly is one of the best parts. The DM not having a sense of creativity also sucks when you do one of these side quests and they don’t give you a fun or well-written, creative, result. You end up with a short, pointless, lame outcome. 

   Another thing a DM can do to literally tick off the entire party, is catering to a certain player. This is so common and it is never not annoying. As many people can probably guess, it is seen most when the DM is in a romantic relationship with a player or is closer to that specific player than all the other people. Honestly, catering to a player because they’re new is completely different. It’s the DMs that will create a whole encounter to benefit one player, or will make all the enemies focus away from one of the players to make sure they don’t die. It is always appreciated by the party when the DM doesn’t just slay the entire party in a single combat encounter. When the entire party is dying and someone has max hit points, something is wrong. 

   To be a good DM, they also have to know the rules of the game and how things work. It gets annoying when the DM is constantly skimming through the handbook because they don’t know how something works. Not remembering something perfectly is one thing, but when the DM doesn’t know what stats to add or simple things like disengaging in combat it’s bad. If they don’t know the rules then things just won’t be fair for all the players, and it adds a lot of confusion. On top of just not knowing the rules, they also have to remember their own preferences. There’s obviously going to be things that DMs alter a little bit to make the game their own. Like for example what they classify as a “full action” and what they classify as a “movement” or “bonus action.” It is so confusing when the DM states a preference of how something works, and then drops it for other people or says to do it another way. They can’t change their mind randomly and flip-flop because it’s just unfair for the players. 

One of the most obvious things that makes a good DM is when they’re a brilliant storyteller. When a DM is a talented storyteller, they keep the party engaged and keep their attention. It’s guaranteed that a DM who isn’t talented at storytelling is going to have a party full of people daydreaming and sorting their dice. Nothing is better than when your DM is passionate in their story and they describe things well, speak the characters they play well, and do the story justice. DMs who can’t draw out the story verbally will never keep my focus, and I will only be engaged during combat. 

   The final thing that makes a good DM, is when they don’t micromanage the party and what they do. Yes, I understand they need to keep the story progressing and all of that, but no player wants the DM to eliminate all things that aren’t directly connected to the main story or to tell us everything. The players want to investigate, ask questions, and figure out what to do as a party. When you tell them everything they need to do and where to go, the DM is playing the game at that point, not the party. For example when the players enter a room, the DM should be quiet. A good DM will wait for the players to tell them what they are looking for, and depending on how specific the player’s response is, they should have to roll to see if the character actually notices it. 

   There are so many things that make a good DM, and so many things that make a bad DM. Not everyone is fit to be a DM. If you do absolutely none of these things that makes a good DM, please do not hold campaigns and put passionate players through that.