No matter what edition you play, follow these three simple rules and watch your Dungeon Master skills blossom.
This means less about setting up your campaign & more about setting a schedule on when and where you will be playing. Set a timeline for how long the sessions will take with breaks in between. And no, I am not talking about bathroom or snack breaks, I am talking about breaks within the adventure where if someone needs to leave, they can exit the game without people having to NPC their character or come up with some silly in-game excuse for why Darius the Sunderer had to leave and take his kid to the doctor. Being prepared also means, having all materials, pages bookmarked, cards printed, etc.
Suggestion: Set up a Google Calendar and invite your buddies. Allow them to suggest other dates and times if your current calendar doesn’t work for the party. You can also share documents on Google Drive such as character sheets, maps & notes.
Look we get it. This campaign is going to lead into your first novel about Psionic Vampires. But remember, there are other creative people who have taken time out to also share their tales about their characters and their motivations. Leave plenty of room for their own story lines and plot elements. Your job is to steward the rules and make the game flow. When you find yourself explaining to your players how they think and feel, you have overstepped your boundaries. A Dungeon Master should be like an enlightened despot. He must be willing to take control but allow enough flexibility to make his players feel like it is their story as well. Maintaining a balance also has to do with story versus action. Storytelling elements are like gathering information, buying & trading items, general housekeeping & the like. Action is basically your battles, spell casting, traveling etc. Make sure you maintain a balance so that players can really get in touch with who their characters are in battle and out of it.
Suggestion: Always invite feedback at the end of the game. Be open to it. Your audience is these players and they will make you better if you allow them a forum for communicating their concerns & ideas. Also, not all feedback is negative.
The Answer is Yes Until the Dice Say No
This is a fantasy game. This is where your players want to do outlandish things. PC’s are like the protagonists in every major super hero/action movie out there. Don’t be the DM who gets gamed and then comes up with a rules justification for not allowing Litus Swiftwind to back flip off a moving carriage while casting Prismatic Spray at marauding orcs. You should want that to happen. If you are caught up in a situation where you are clueless on how to play out a scenario with the rules, then stop the game and let everyone get involved in setting up the percentages & parameters for said intricate move. If you don’t learn this now, when your PCs get to higher levels you are going to be in for it. Remember, don’t be the deciding factor when you get into grey areas with the rules. Come up with a dice mechanic that everyone can agree on and let the dice dictate success or failure.
Suggestion: Chances are that your players have imagined doing one or two outlandish things but have been timid about introducing it in the game for fear of slowing the flow. Be proactive and ask. This does wonders for the creativity of your game sessions and levels you up as a DM!
One of my favorite classes in 3.5 is the sorcerer. I love this class because it is weak but can be improved easily with some extra feats. Has anyone ever toyed with the idea of adding meta magic feats as class features? I think that would make a sorcerer more powerful and balanced as a character class. What do you guys think?
I say yes. Especially at higher levels when we are rolling so much for so many different things that it is refreshing to be able to roll a natural 20 and that mean it is a critical hit instead of having to roll a qualifier. It speeds up the game and keeps things interesting. Here is an article I recently found that explores this more in depth.
What are your thoughts and reasoning behind adding a qualifying roll such as is the normal convention for D&D 3.5?