July 27, 2011

lessons from my first D&D campaign

Sorry for the late post, but I was up rather late last night. Couldn’t sleep, so what did I do? I read Ella Enchanted. Stayed up until two o’clock, which in my college days would have been negligible, but now I go to bed around 10:30 like an old fogey. I blame my husband. He has to get up early for work, and if I don’t fall asleep before he does, I won’t. That man snores like a freight train. Lately though, he’s been working nights, so I’ve adopted my college schedule. Stay up however late, doing whatever, and waking up whenever I want, eating junk food, and taking naps. Very little productivity with this sort of “schedule”. I’ll be glad when he goes back to normal working hours. I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done since he’s been working weird hours. I need my uninterrupted peace and quiet.

Anyway… I haven’t done a gaming post in a while. My Dungeons & Dragons adventuring party has been on a hiatus since May, and we never could get together over the summer. So I killed them. Let’s just say an Astral Kraken dropped out of a portal in the sky, squished them, ate them, and then swam back to the Astral Sea. Yes. That’s what happened.

"Astral Kraken" by Belibr (deviantART)

We plan on starting a new campaign next month with new players. I learned a lot from my first campaign as a DM (Dungeon Master), and I hope that this next campaign runs a lot smoother. So the lessons?

Autonomy does not exist.
It is a dream, a figment of a player’s imagination. No, you can’t do whatever you want. I won’t allow it. If I let you, you’ll sit around making bubbles out of your own spit. If a campaign is to be at all successful, then the DM must dictate the action within the game. No more “open-world” adventures, guys. Sorry. Linear quests is all you get. You don’t have the brain capacity to do otherwise.

Don’t let people you don’t like into your adventuring party.
If someone pisses you off in real life, you’re going to hate them with a fiery passion of a thousand suns in game.

Never introduce prostitutes into gameplay.
Commence awkward role-playing.

Don’t let your players build an unbalanced adventuring party.
So the proper five player adventuring party consists of a Leader, Defender, Controller, and two Strikers. (For those of you out of the loop… the Leader heals, gives people buffs to their rolls and defenses, tells everyone what to do, and maintains a sense of order. They deal little to no damage… The Defender defends the party, pretty simple. They deal negligible damage, but their main purpose is to hold threat—keep enemies interested in them, and them alone… The Controller, well, controls the battlefield. They have an arsenal of spells that allow them to manipulate the outcome of a battle: sliding, pushing, pulling enemies, casting auras, putting enemies to sleep, etc. They can deal moderate damage. Nothing flashy… and Strikers, they strike down enemies with explosive damage). A party should not consist of a Defender, two Strikers, and two Controllers who think they’re Strikers. Recipe for disaster there. No healer, no buffs, no control of the battlefield. At this point, all the party is good for is hack-and-slash, and that’s not really any fun, to be honest.

Don’t be a nice DM.
Nice DMs don’t instill fear into players. Nice DMs don’t demand respect. If you’re going to DM a campaign, you need to have the players’ respect. Without it, gameplay will come to a halt for anything. The story immersion evaporates. To be a successful DM, you have to demand respect. You have to drop Ancient Black Dragons in front of your level three party just because. Then they’ll be sure to pay attention. Sometimes, you have silence the players with the “I am God” speech. In short: you rule the players; the players don’t rule you.

Get everyone involved.
The game is only fun if everyone is having fun. As soon as a single person decides that they’re not having fun, the gameplay falls apart. Let the rogue do sneaky things. Let the wizard cast rituals—he paid enough for them. Let the barbarian cleave a vampire child in two. Let the drunkard fighter spend a night in the tavern. And if your Changeling bard wants to swap between disguises of George Clooney and Dakota Fanning, I suppose you can let him do that too. Don’t leave anyone out. But if someone’s being a party pooper for the sake of party pooping, step up and say something.

You always need more dice.
Always. Two d20s, two d12s, four d10s, two d8s, nineteen d6s, and two d4s? Not enough. Well, maybe enough d6s and d20s, but you really need like ten of each. That, and at least one person will always forget their dice.

So that’s what I’ve learned so far. I expect that I’ll learn a lot more as time goes on as I’m still new to it. I’m still playing as a character in other campaigns, learning from other DMs as we go. I just wish I would have started playing ages ago.

For those of you that play RPGs, have you ever been the one in charge, or do you prefer to roll characters? If you DM, do you plan everything out, or do you wing it? What lessons have you learned over the years?

Hope everyone has a fantabulous day. Go slay some trolls.


  1. Lessons I learned from D&D: Never be a halfling. Ever. Especially not when your party also contains a strong and incredibly stupid orc. You will get picked up and thrown.

  2. I don't play D&D, but a bunch of my friends did in High School. To the point where I'm surprised how much I know about it. This post made me laugh :D

    and feel a bit nostalgic.

  3. My Avenger approves of this.