Somebody pointed out to me the other day that I don’t have anything that tells a first time or very green Gamemaster how to run a successful game. What he really said was very foul but for this I will just boil it down to that sentence. Even when something isn’t said in the same manner as I would say something to somebody doesn’t mean that what they are saying has no truth to it. So today I am going to suggest a few tips for first time DMs or GMs or Storytellers or Watchers what they can do to run a successful game. Get yourself an adventure that a professional wrote and published and then make the necessary alterations to change it to the tastes of your group. You may even want to get a setting book to further help you get your game under way.
DriveThruRpg can be a great resource for finding an adventure that will suit your needs regardless of what system you are playing. You may even surprise yourself by finding something that you didn’t even know existed. You can usually get great deals and the site is easy to navigate. Adventure A Week will keep you in 3.5 OGL and Pathfinder materials (They also accept submissions once you get this adventure running thing down). EN World offers several adventure paths that are well written and a lot of fun. The Zeitgeist Adventure Path is the most fun I have had running a 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons game. You 3.5 D&D fans will enjoy the War of the Burning Sky Adventure Path. You can save a lot of money by buying the complete bundled pack. You can become a silver member subscriber to get access to these adventures. If you are playing 4E I guess I should mention D&D Insider and Dungeon Magazine as a great source for adventures. Somehow I think most gamers can find that site on their own.
If you are on a really tight budget you can go to RPG Archive and find some quality adventures that are submitted by fans. The site offers adventures, NPCs, and locations for a variety of systems from Call of Cthulhu to the Traveller RPG. Sort the material by rating and you will usually get a pretty high quality adventure for free.
Now that you have the adventure that you want to run and have decided on a setting if the adventure doesn’t provide one for you, go read it a lot. The more you know the material the easier things will go. Take a few different color highlighters and make draw attention to things in the adventure that may come up. This is why even if you have a pdf adventure print it out. I like to use a yellow highlighter for things I read to the players, a blue for things that might require a skill or ability roll, pink for things that I need to keep in mind but the players will not know. What works best for you may be something completely different. Remember, you have all that margin space to jot down a note for yourself.
If the adventure has a situation that might come up like falling or catching on fire then jot down the page in the rulebook that deals with the rules for that situation. This will speed things up when it is game time. Now that you are familiar with the module and have prepped it for game use the few changes that may need to make to tailor it to your group is a whole lot easier to accomplish.
Look at the characters in the group and think of what the players may want to explore or seek out in the game. If one of the players is a cleric of Tymora you may change the temple in the adventure to Tymora if it is not vital to the adventure. If adding a temple for the PC to seek assistance is not going to work perhaps a shrine in an appropriate area would personalize the adventure without altering the story dramatically.
Look at the NPCs that are in the adventure and see if there are any cosmetic alterations that you can make to them that may draw the interest of your players more. If your group has a dwarf who has described his personality as reserved around most but gregarious when he is in his cups in the company of other dwarves, then see if you can add a couple of dwarves to the tavern as patrons. If it doesn’t change the story but will help your players get pulled into your game then it will make your job as the DM all that much easier. This is just a suggestion and if it is your first time running an adventure or you don’t have a lot of experience and are nervous it is perfectly acceptable to run any adventure as is.
After you have run a couple of adventures and your comfort level increases pick one area of your DM game that you want to improve. It might be having more descriptive combats or more colorful NPCs for the players to interact. Add that element into your game for four or five sessions and after you have it mastered select another while making sure not to ignore the strengths you have already developed. I am a believer in good preparation makes every game run smoother. Until next time, Roll Hard!
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